Story and Images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)

June 7, 2014 Burnaby,BC (ISN) – Japan defeated Canada 34-25 in stunning fashion Saturday evening at Swanguard Stadium in the first round of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup Rugby Tournament.

Players from both sides gave no quarter in try to secure this ball kicked away. Both would be slow to get up after the collision. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

The 2014 Pacific Nations Cup, the ninth edition of the tournament, is held over a 3 week period in different Pacific countries as, this year, six teams will playoff in round-robin format for Cup honours. Canada, competing for only the second year in the tournament walked onto the field in fifteenth position in the world rankings nipping at the Japan Brave Blossoms who hold down the twelfth spot.


Fans on both sides enjoyed an afternoon of international ruby cheering on their respective countries team. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

Japan has historically been a roadblock in Canada’s advancement in world rankings. Japan has tied the Canadian side in the last two World Cups, and handed Canada a 16-13 loss in last years Pacific Nations Cup. That single loss seeded Canada against a tough Fijian side in the final and ultimately a Cup loss. Japan came into the Canada’s first match of the season on a tear, winning their last seven games including a win last week against 8th ranked Samoa. Expecting a stiff challenge from the Japanese, the Canadian team, heavily supported by local Vancouver Island island talent, looked to run Japan off the field early in the test with their physical style of play.


Canada’s Hubert Buydens runs over one Japanese player while dragging the other behind in a geat demostration of effort . – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

 Canada asserted themselves both offensively and defensively in the first half as Japan couldn’t match the foot speed or the size of the Canadian side. Canada’s successes would come on the backs of Japan’s poor blocking and missing critical tackles. The home side  would open the scoring early on a try by Ciarn Hearn who found room down the wing after some speedy passing of the ball that appeared to catch the Brave Blossoms off guard. 


Japanese Scrum-Half Fumiaki Tanaka pulls the ball out of the scrum to a waiting winger. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

Japan would be slow to respond as Canada’s defensive line would control Japan, keeping them out of the endzone forcing Japan to settle for only 9 points on the penalty kicks on the boot of fullback Ayumu Goromaru. Canada would continue to own the wings scoring two more tries on efforts by Victoria’s John Moonlight and winger Taylor Paris, who brought the Canadian fans to their feet with a brilliant run the length of the field through the porous Brave Blossom defense.  Canada would control the game to the half with a surprising 25-9 lead, much to the feverish delight of the partisan crowd.


Ciarn Hearns would score Canada’s first try of the game, but couldn’t pull in this loose ball headed for the try line. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

To those that know the history between the two sides, Japan was not to be dispatched from a victory quite  yet. As they have done many times in the past, you could almost say a calling card, Japan was intent to hang around and chip away at the lead in the second half. Japan’s defense, with everything to loose, stepped up their play, closing down the Canada’s wings. Japan’s Fujita would start his teams miraculous comeback, diving over the line for the try in the 42nd minute to pull the score five points closer at 25-14 on a missed covert.


John Moonlight breaks out with a loose ball to head up field. Moonlight would score a first half try to help his team jump out to an early lead. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

Canada, looking rattled in front of their home crowd, had a tough go of hanging onto the ball.  Looking quicker to the loose balls, Japan would find success in their ball possession time, not allowing Canada to touch the ball with the frequency of the first half. Tamura would cut the deficit to just one point on a try after Goromaru’s fourth penalty kick on the night with the score standing at 25-24. Hendrik Tui would complete Japan’s comeback bid with a try of his own late in the game to push ahead of the Canadian side 31-25. Goromaru would tally one final penalty kick to add to his game total of five penalty kicks and 2 converts to post a Japan final decision 34-25.


Ray Barkwill delivers the line out ball during second half action Saturday at Swanguard Stadium. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

Not happy with his teams second half play head coach Kieran Crowley would comment, “We really played well in that first half. We put pressure on them, we scored a couple really good tries,” he said. “Second half, we had a couple bad defensive errors from set plays, which you can’t afford to do. They were pretty soft tries, really. Japan just took it to us and they deserved to win with that second-half performance.”


Canada’s DTH Van Der Merwe puts the hit on a Japanese Brave Blossom. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia)

First-time Team Canada captain, 22-y old Tyler Ardon saw the upside to the loss in conversation post game. “There are tons of things still to work on,” said Ardon, making is 14th appearance for the national team. “We executed a lot of things that we wanted to and I think if you look at the first half, a lot of things went our way, and in the second half a couple bounces maybe went their way”.


Canada will have to be sharper as they play a 10th ranked Scottish side June 21st at BMO field in Toronto before heading south to Sacramento for a match up with the USA Eagles.