Japan stun Scots to reach World Cup quarterfinals

Japan’s players after winning the Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Scotland to qualify for the quarterfinals. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2019

Japan stun Scots to reach World Cup quarterfinals

YOKOHAMA: Japan’s “Ferraris” hit top gear Sunday as the hosts beat Scotland 28-21 in a barnstorming Rugby World Cup clash to create history by reaching the quarterfinals.

Rampaging wingers Kotaro Matsushima and Kenki Fukuoka did the damage for Japan, who survived a late fightback in Yokohama to advance as Pool A winners along with Ireland.

The Brave Blossoms will face two-time world champions South Africa in Tokyo next weekend after making it a perfect four wins out of four, roared on by a crowd of 67,000.

Fukuoka, scorer of Japan’s try in their 19-12 upset over Ireland, grabbed two more in Yokohama with Matsushima notching his fifth of the tournament for the rampant Japanese.

After a war of words between the rival coaches in the buildup, the teams observed a moment’s silence for the victims of the violent typhoon that swept through Japan on Saturday, killing at least 26 and forcing organizers to scrap three pool games.

The needle between the sides quickly resurfaced in Sunday’s typhoon-threatened Pool A decider, however, as both teams put in some monstrous early tackles.

“For my team, the whole World Cup, we’ve prepared really, really well. They’ve put their bodies on the line every weekend,” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph, who has compared his players to Ferraris.

“But tonight they went another level I felt. They gave everything they possibly could — everyone gave 150 percent and that’s what it takes to win big Test matches.”

“We gave it a good crack in the second half but when you leak 28 points, you’re always going to be chasing the game,” said Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw.

Early pressure told as flyhalf Finn Russell broke through to give them the lead after just seven minutes.

But the Japanese hit back with Matsushima latching onto a superb, one-handed offload from Fukuoka to score his fifth try of the tournament.

Even better was to come from the hosts with a dazzling move straight out of a basketball playbook, quick hands between Shota Horie and William Tupou releasing loosehead prop Keita Inagaki to crash over.

On the stroke of half-time, Fukuoka plucked a high-bouncing Timothy Lafaele grubber out of the air to leave Scotland with a mountain to climb.

Man of the match Fukuoka then produced a moment of solo brilliance moments into the second half, stripping the ball from Chris Harris before accelerating clear.

Scotland, who had bounced back from a 27-3 drubbing by Ireland to smash Samoa 34-0 and Russia 61-0, looked out of it.


Roger Federer outclasses Novak Djokovic to reach ATP Finals semis

Updated 15 November 2019

Roger Federer outclasses Novak Djokovic to reach ATP Finals semis

  • Defeat spells the end of Djokovic’s bid to overtake Rafael Nadal as No. 1
  • Federer, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, reached his 16th semifinal

LONDOM: Roger Federer produced a serving masterclass as he avenged his Wimbledon defeat by Novak Djokovic and qualified for the last four of the ATP Finals on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Swiss, playing near-flawless tennis, broke once in the first set and twice in the second to beat his rival for the first time since 2015.
Roared on by a raucous packed house at London’s O2 Arena, the six-time champion dropped just seven points on his serve in the first set.
Defeat spells the end of Djokovic’s bid to overtake Rafael Nadal and finish as year-end number one.
The third-seeded Federer, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, reached his 16th semifinal.
Djokovic needed to win the title to have a chance at knocking Nadal off the top spot, but now the Spaniard is guaranteed to finish the year as the top-ranked player for the fifth time, tying him with Federer, Djokovic and American Jimmy Connors.
“Great atmosphere, great opponent,” said Federer. “It was definitely incredibly special. I enjoyed it from the beginning.
“I played incredible and I knew I had to because that’s what Novak does. It was definitely magical. You guys made it super special, I can’t thank you enough.”
Speaking about what was different from Wimbledon, he said: “I won match point I guess. It was so close at Wimbledon. It was a privilege to play that match, so many ups and downs. I couldn’t be more happy right now.”
Federer finishes second in Group Bjorn Borg, behind Dominic Thiem, who beat both Federer and Djokovic earlier this week. The Swiss will face the Group Andre Agassi winner on Saturday.
Djokovic looked nervy at the start of the winner-takes-all contest, double-faulting twice in the third game, in which he was broken to love.
As cries of “Let’s go Roger, let’s go” rang around the cavernous stadium, Federer was dead-eyed on his serve, hitting eight aces, including a second-serve ace, in the first set.
Federer’s service level dipped in the second set and Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the fourth game, which the Swiss saved.
He broke Djokovic again in the fifth game to take an iron grip on the match and repeated the trick to take the second set 6-3.
It was the 49th time Federer and Djokovic had met.
Djokovic, who now holds a 26-23 advantage, had won their past five meetings, including their epic five-set battle in the final at Wimbledon in July, during which he saved two championship points.
In Thursday’s early match in Group Bjorn Borg, which was a dead rubber, eighth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Thiem 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
In doing so, the 23-year-old became the first Italian to win a match at the season-ending championships.
Berrettini arrived in London at a career-high number eight in the ATP rankings after starting the season outside of the top 50.
Fifth seed Thiem did not hit the heights he reached during his three-set win against Djokovic, notching just 12 winners compared with 50 against the Serbian.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has already qualified for the semifinals from Group Andre Agassi, leaving Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev to scrap it out for the other spot on Friday.