Last Tuesday night at Bond University on the Gold Coast the Japanese women’s rugby team, known as the Sakura 15, defeated the Wallaroos 12 to 10. Despite 10 personnel and positional changes due to COVID Tests on the eve the match, they were able to overcome their more fancied rivals.
The first half was dominated by the decidedly larger Aussie side in both scrums and lineouts. However, the tenacious Japanese side made their tackles and held them out to keep the score at nil-all going to the sheds.
In the second half it was No. 10 Ayasa Otsuka that kicked through a dropped ball by the Wallaroos in their own 22 to snatch a try in the 49th minute. She successfully converted her try to put the Sakura 15 ahead 7-0.
The Wallaroos continued to work the ball downfield and off a rolling maul, Ashley Masteri, was in for the Aussies first score. The Sakura 15 put some good phases together and eventually put Kyoko Hosokawa in to extend their lead to 12-5. However, the Wallaroos were not going to give in and Adiana Talakai managed to cross out wide. Once again Lori Crammer missed the conversion so the score remained 10-12. Crammer had an easier penalty shot in the 79th minute to steal the match for the Wallaroos, but was unsuccessful. Crammer’s 0 and 3 with the boot proved decisive for the home team.
The short turnaround from Friday night’s 36-19 demolition of Fijiana at Suncorp Stadium was no excuse for Jay Tregonning fielding the same 23. The last time the two sides met on the 19th of July, 2019, the Aussies won 46-3 after beating them 34-5 on the 13th of July, 2019. The only other time the two side have met was the 17th of August, 2017, at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland where the Wallaroos were also victorious winning 29-15.
It was history making on the Gold Coast for the Sakura 15 with plenty of Japanese in the crowd. This bodes well for their campaign for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year in October/November.