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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 October, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
France subdue brave Japan

Aurelien Rougerie takes on the Japanese defence
France 51
Tries: Michalak, Rougerie (2), Pelous, Dominci, Crenca
Cons: Michalak (5), Merceron
Pens: Michalak (3)
Japan 29
Tries: Konia, Ohata
Cons: Kurihara (2)
Pens: Kurihara (5)

France 51-29 Japan

France were made to work hard by a lively Japanese side before eventually running out comfortable winners in hot and humid Townsville on Saturday.

The French were expected to run up a cricket score but early in the second half they led just 20-19, before easing away from the tiring Japanese in the latter stages.

The French ran in six tries, with Aurelien Rougerie grabbing a brace, but they rarely produced their best rugby and for the second match in a row the Japanese emerged with a great deal of credit despite being the beaten side.

They scored two fine tries through George Konia and Daisuke Ohata, and with Toru Kurihara producing an impeccable kicking display they gave the French more than a few alarms.

Japan took the lead through a Kurihara penalty after just three minutes before France raced into a 14-3 lead through tries from Frederic Michalak and Rougerie, both converted by Michalak.

With just 10 minutes played it was looking ominous for Japan, but what they lack in sheer power they more than make up for with organisation, commitment and enthusiasm.

They allowed France only two more penalties in the half and, with fly-half Andrew Miller looking impressive, it was the Japanese who scored the game's third try when Konia sliced through the French backline before rounding the full-back to score.

Kurihara converted from in front of the posts and added two penalties to leave France with a fragile 20-16 lead at the break.

It was hard to believe that the French would not improve but they started the second half just as flat as they had been for the last 30 minutes of the first period.

Five minutes into the half Kurihara slotted a penalty to trim the gap to just one point but that was as close as the Japanese were to get.

Almost from the kick-off they conceded a try to Fabien Pelous and when Christophe Dominici went over five minutes later the game was as good as over.

I'm happy we were able to show what we could do against one of the world's best teams
Japan captain Takuro Miuchi

Michalak converted both tries and added a penalty to make it 37-19 to the French with 20 minutes to go.

Rougerie powered through four tackles for another converted try to take the French up to 44 points before Ohata finished off a flowing move to score Japan's second try.

The final word went to France as prop Jean-Jacques Crenca rumbled over, with replacement fly-half Gerald Merceron converting to take the French past the 50-point mark.

France: C Poitrenaud; A Rougerie, T Marsh, D Traille, C Dominici; F Michalak, F Galthie (capt); O Milloud, Y Bru, J-B Poux, F Pelous, O Brouzet, S Betsen, O Magne, C Labit.
Replacements: R Ibanez, J-J Crenca, D Auradou, S Chabal; G Merceron, Y Jauzion, P Elhorga.

Japan: T Kurihara; D Ohata, G Konia, H Namba, H Onozawa; A Miller, Y Sonoda; S Hasegawa, M Sakata, R Yamamura, H Tanuma, A Parker, N Okubo, T Miuchi (capt), T Ito.
Replacements: M Yamamoto, M Amino, K Kubo, R Asano, T Tsuji, Y Motoki, T Yoshida.

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