Japan pipped by world XV in All Blacks tune-up

Lionel Cronje (Getty Images)
Lionel Cronje (Getty Images)

Osaka - Japan fell just short of completing a late comeback against a star-studded world select side on Friday as the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosts went down 31-28.

Trailing 31-7 early in the second half, the Brave Blossoms scored a hat-trick of tries to threaten a stirring comeback in Osaka.

Flyhalf Lionel Cronje crossed under the posts to give the visitors an early lead before Toni Pulu extended their advantage by diving over in the corner.

Kenki Fukuoka pulled a try back for Japan in the 21st minute before winger Tevita Li and Jason Jenkins scored further tries for the away side before halftime.

Li touched down for his second soon after the restart before Timothy Lafaele stopped the rot for Japan by racing the length of the field to score from an interception.

When Yu Tamura converted Lomano Lemeki's try, Japan were within 10 points and Ryoto Nakamura's late score set up a nervous finish for the world XV.

Japan, who face New Zealand in Tokyo next weekend, ultimately came up just short but head coach Jamie Joseph paid tribute to his players.

"I'm very proud of our team," said the former All Black.

"We came up against a very big and powerful World XV team littered with internationals.

"But we need to sort out our discipline," added Joseph. "We gave far too many penalties away. Against the teams we're coming up against, it's far too many."

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