Japan and Canada draw out a thriller
BORDEAUX, 25 September - Japan coach John Kirwan hailed his team's courage and passion after they clawed their way back to earn a dramatic 12-12 draw with Canada at the Stade Chaban-Delmas on Tuesday.
''Technically that wasn't one of our best performances but I can't fault our courage in any way. We'll definitely walk away from this world cup with a lot of respect after that,'' Kirwan said.
The Pool B match was into its third minute of injury time, with Canada leading 12-5, when Japan produced a move out of the top drawer to send replacement back Koji Taira racing over in the corner.
Centre Shotaro Onishi then supplied a high-octane flourish, nervelessly threading the conversion between the posts some five metres in from the touchline.
No sooner had the touch judges raised their flags than Onishi was swamped by his jubilant team-mates.
This was only the second draw in the history of the IRB Rugby World Cup, coming 20 years after Scotland and France shared the spoils 20-20 at the inaugural tournament in New Zealand and Australia.
''Shotaro has been great under pressure for us, and if anyone could land that last kick it was him,'' Kirwan said.
''I thought Canada threw the kitchen sink at us and we did well to keep them out for so long. We've been outstanding in patches at this world cup but we still have a lot of work to do.''
Canada's proud record of never having left a world cup winless now looks set to end. They play Australia, the RWC 2003 runners-up, in their final pool game on Saturday at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
''We're on an eight to 12-year cycle to revamp rugby in Canada. Rome wasn't built in a day, so it's not the end of the world for us,'' said Canada coach Ric Suggitt, who admitted his team had originally targeted three victories at this tournament.
The coach singled out his 31-year-old captain and scrum half Morgan Williams for particular praise.
''Morgan has played out of his skin and led by example throughout. We now need to go back to Canada and create 30 more players just like him.''
The teams were locked at 5-5 before Williams set up wing Dth van der Merwe in the 65th minute for what Canada must have thought was the match-clinching try.
But the Cherry Blossoms, playing their fourth game in 18 days, bloomed at the end.
''What we did with the ball in those last few minutes was how we had wanted to play all game,'' smiled Kirwan.