Yokohama: Japan got the chance to prove they were worthy Rugby World Cup quarter-finalists and took it bravely with a 28-21 win over Scotland on Sunday to bring some joy to a host country reeling from a ferocious typhoon overnight.
The tournament hosts swept Pool A and will play South Africa next week. And they have form against the two-time champions, after producing the so-called Miracle of Brighton to upset the Springboks in 2015.
After a stirring comeback, Scotland miss the quarter-finals for only the second time and will go home.
Japan are into the knockout stage for the first time, fittingly in the first Rugby World Cup staged in Asia.
Ireland placed second in the group and will play the defending champions All Blacks next week.
Winger Kenki Fukuoka scored a try in the first half and touched down again three minutes after the break to secure Japan a four-try bonus point with almost half a game to play at a Yokohama Stadium packed with 72,000 people almost entirely wearing red-and-white striped shirts.
But then the game that almost didn’t happen because of Typhoon Hagibis become a classic.
It was Scotland that ended Japan’s hopes of a quarter-final run four years ago. Japan led 21-7 at halftime with three tries after Scottish fly-half Finn Russell strolled through some weak defence in the seventh minute. The new half had barely started when Fukuoka stripped the ball from Chris Harris and ran away to extend the lead to 28-7.
That’s when Scotland threw caution to the wind. Two tries in six minutes to front-rowers Willem Nel and Zander Fagerson narrowed the gap to seven points and set up a tension-filled last 25 minutes.
Both teams threw everything into attack and defended grimly but Scotland, needing a win to have any chance of advancing, just couldn’t crack Japan’s defence.
Wales will play France in the quarter-finals after labouring past Uruguay 35-13 to top Pool D on Sunday.
The Welsh swept a pool for the first time since 1987.
Their victory left Australia to play England in the other quarter-final.
1. New Zealand
2. South Africa
England v Australia, 11.15am
New Zealand v Ireland, 2.15pm
Wales v France, 11.15am
Japan v South Africa, 2.15pm