Japan 30-10 Russia: Kotaro Matsushima hat-trick sees hosts eventually post bonus-point win
Last Updated: 20/09/19 6:47pm
A history-making hat-trick from Kotaro Matsushima, plus another score from Pieter Labuschagne, eventually saw Rugby World Cup hosts Japan record an uninspiring 30-10 win over Russia in the tournament's opening game.
Matsushima's treble was the first hat-trick by a Japan player in World Cup history, but Russia actually scored first via their own wing, Kirill Golosnitskiy.
Russia, who conceded 85 points in a pre-World Cup defeat to Italy and lost to club sides Jersey Reds and Connacht before arriving in Japan, had the better of the opening half and enjoyed possession for large periods of the second, but Japan's superior fitness and ability eventually shone through.
After a colourful and vibrant opening ceremony, which included World Rugby chairman and former England captain Sir Bill Beaumont making an official welcome, Russia dimmed the lights by scoring a fifth-minute try.
Japan full-back William Tupou made a hash of collecting a kick inside his own 22, and Golosnitskiy capitalised on his hesitancy to claim the competition's opening try, with Kushnarev converting.
Russia, ranked 10 places below their opponents in the world rankings and coached by Welshman Lyn Jones, showed no sign of nerves as they looked to rattle Japan through some strong early ball-carrying.
Russia posed plenty of questions, but Japan found an answer seven minutes later when some slick handling among their backs produced the required result when Matsushima finished impressively.
Errors, though, continued to abound in stamina-sapping conditions that saw players from both sides regularly taking on water.
Matsushima was denied a second try when replays showed the ball slipped agonisingly from his grasp as he crossed Russia's line, but he made amends four minutes later by breaching the opposition defence, with Tamura's conversion giving Japan a 12-7 interval advantage.
A Tamura penalty early in the second period extended Japan's lead, before Russia began to show signs of creaking when Labuschagne galloped clear on a 35-metre run that confirmed his team's third try.
Kushnarev and Tamura exchanged penalties during the final quarter, with 26-year-old Matsushima then finishing as he had started with another score to confirm a memorable contribution on the competition's opening night.