Japan 10 – 45 Scotland
I’m in Auckland on business. Staying in a motel that would charitably be called a flea-pit if the fleas hadn’t abandoned it in disgust.
The aspect ratio on the tv is all over the place, so that the players look short and wide.
But who cares? It’s rugby, baby.
And, oh, the intrigue for the first of the overnight’s three matches.
Four days after ambushing South Africa, Japan has to front up to face Scotland in Gloucester. For Scotland, in their first match of the tournament, fair warning: Japan want their place in the quarter-finals.
In the first half Japan blew hot and cold, sometimes looking exhausted, and sometimes as though they were getting their second breath. Their attacks could be dazzling combinations of fast passes and bewitching lines. And then they would give away lazy penalties to the deadly boot of Greig Laidlaw.
In the second half, Scotland found their mojo. Five tries – two from some lovely deceptive lines, one intercept as Japan attacked playing catch-up, the last two as the defensive line wilted – let the air out of the Brave Blossoms challenge.
There is so much to admire in this Eddie Jones Special team. They know exactly what they’re wanting to do at any moment. Players are arriving in position as if it’s a just in time production line. The passing is crisp and accurate, the set piece solid.
Both teams can take satisfaction and confidence from the game. The Japanese because for 60 minutes they showed that Sunday was no fluke. The Scots because they played smarter than South Africa ever did, and the turbo button worked late in the game.