Canada flyhalf Ander Monro kicked a 79th-minute penalty for a 23-23 draw against Japan in Napier.
The last time Japan recorded a World Cup win was back at the 1991 tournament against Zimbabwe. Twenty years later, against fellow Pool A minnows Canada, they had their best opportunity to break their winless run in their final group game.
John Kirwan’s men led 23-15 with eight minutes to go. With Canada having to score twice, it looked like Japan were set to break their drought – especially after displaying a strong overall defensive showing in the second half. However, the Canadians scored a try through replacement scrumhalf Sean White. They then levelled the scores with a Monro three-pointer a minute from time.
Japan searched for a match-winning score in the dying seconds, but flyhalf James Arlidge couldn’t find the target with a late drop goal attempt under pressure. The match ended in a stalemate, the same result the two teams achieved four years ago when they met in France for a 12-12 scoreline.
The draw will be morale victory for Canada considering the strong performance Japan produced in the first half. After Canadaian DTH van der Merwe scored an early try, the latter surged as wing Kosuke Endo and hooker Shota Horie crossed the whitewash. Arlidge impressed with the boot, adding all the extras and a penalty for a 17-7 lead at half-time.
Canada narrowed the deficit when winger Phil Mackenzie burst through for his team’s second try, but Arlidge kicked well to give Japan a comfortable buffer heading into the final 10 minutes of the match. However, they couldn’t hold out the Canadian fight and had to settle for the draw. The Japanese World Cup drought will now go on for another four years.
By Gareth Duncan