Japan 13-26 Scotland
|Japan (10) 13|
|Try: Horie Con: Tamura Pen: Tamura 2|
|Scotland (16) 26|
|Try: Penalty try, Nel Cons: Laidlaw 2 Pens: Laidlaw 4|
Scotland beat a depleted but resilient Japan in Toyota City to go one-up in their two Test series, the second coming in Tokyo next Saturday.
Japan scored the opening try through Shota Horie, but their ruinous ill-discipline dynamited their chances.
A penalty try for the Scots came while Japan's Hendrik Tui was in the sin bin.
Tui was still off and had been joined by Rikiya Matsuda when Scotland got their second and last score, via a barrelling finish from WP Nel.
The unerring goal-kicking of Greig Laidlaw steered Scotland home, the captain landing 16 points in all.
Early Scotland jitters punished
Vern Cotter's side rarely looked convincing against a team shorn of seven of the men who created history by beating South Africa at the World Cup last year.
For Scotland, the beginning was grim, Alasdair Dickinson going off injured after just two minutes. Laidlaw calmed them soon after with his first penalty but the wheels came off in quick order.
The dogs in the street knew what Japan were going to try to do here. Any chance of introducing pace and fury to proceedings would be taken, any penalty that was tapable would be tapped and things would happen at breakneck speed.
That was the way of it when they won a penalty around halfway in the ninth minute and Scotland were not ready for it. Japan attacked in a blur, Amanaki Mafi roaring down the right and punching holes in the Scotland defence, then Harumichi Tatekawa following in the next wave.
It all ended with Scotland stretched and porous, Horie darting in under the posts for a try that was converted by Yu Tamura.
Infringements cost Japan
Scotland were jumpy for a spell. Stuart McInally overthrew at a lineout and the visitors looked weary. Their respite came in the guise of wretched Japanese discipline at the breakdown and their inability to hold Nel in the scrum.
They conceded six penalties in the opening 23 minutes - and 11 in the first 40 including those two costly yellow cards. Laidlaw booted Scotland into a 9-7 advantage before Tamura restored Japan's lead with a penalty of his own on the half-hour.
It was then that Japan's problems began in earnest.
Scotland got little change out of their lineout maul, but they did get a bonus of having Tui, Japan's blindside flanker, binned in trying to stop it. One yellow card became two when Matsuda walked after deliberately knocking-on a pass from Stuart Hogg to Tommy Seymour that would have seen the wing score in the corner.
Matsuda need not have bothered. Referee Ben O'Keeffe gave a penalty try in any event and Laidlaw added the extras.
Scotland made hay against the 13 men, Ruaridh Jackson's deft chip ahead at the start of the second half putting Japan in a hole they did not get out of until Nel had blasted his way through bodies to score Scotland's second try, converted from the touchline by Laidlaw.
Tamura made it 23-13 with a penalty soon after, Laidlaw negating it with a simple kick after a fine counter attack by Hogg, Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor.
Scotland looked a tired team even by that point, midway through the second half. Japan got some ball and plenty of territory but could not break the tourists.
Japan: Matsushima, Paea, Bennetts, Tatekawa, Sasakura, Tamura, Shigeno, Inagaki, S. Horie, Hatakeyama, H. Ono, Kotaki, Tui, Kin, Mafi.
Replacements: Uchida for Shigeno (49), Kakinaga for Hatakeyama (52), Yamamoto for Tui (79). Not Used: Kizu, K. Ono, Mikami, Yatabe, Matsuda. Sin Bin: Tui (35), Matsuda (38).
Scotland: Hogg, Seymour, Taylor, Scott, Hoyland, Jackson, Laidlaw, Dickinson, McInally, Nel, R. Gray, J. Gray, Barclay, Hardie, Wilson.
Replacements: Horne for Taylor (67), Maitland for Hoyland (57), Brown for McInally (48), Low for Nel (65), Swinson for R. Gray (67), Denton for Wilson (65). Not Used: Sutherland, Pyrgos.
Ref: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand).