Source: Johan Rynners - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Have Scotland done enough?

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Scotland v Japan

After the windless stadium in Dunedin, we were back to normal conditions in Cape Town. Scotland mastered the breeze better than the Sakura to ensure a convincing victory

The agony is, they don’t know if they have scored enough points to finish ahead of Italy, who face USA tomorrow.

What they did know was the quality of the opposition, whom they have now met more than once recently.

Japan had first use of the breeze and used it to keep the Scots under wraps for most of the first 40. They gained an early advantage when they spotted an unguarded ruck. In a flash the captain, Iroha Nagata, was through and over. 0-7.

That was not the plan for a team sitting on a 5-match winning streak. But the Sakura kept up the pressure. Chloe Rollie was fallible at the back, twice preferring to run into contact rather than clear with the boot. Neither time did it help. Then, when she did kick the ball out, it was with a hoof offered in desperation.

After half-an-hour the Scots had barely fired a shot, then they won a penalty at a big scrum. They went on the attack but with the line gaping, Rollie dropped her pass and the chance had gone.

The Scots continued to press, and the Japanese defences came under increasing pressure. In the last ten minutes of the half four powerful scrums might have led to Scottish scores, but none did till the last one. Kat Roche ran under the posts for a penalty try. The Japanese pack lay in a heap on the ground.

Half-time 7-7

In retrospect we can see that the Sakura didn’t take enough profit from that wind. They handled with speed and alacrity, but all too often a small error lost them possession, and Scottish tackling remained ruthless.

Attempts to vary the menu with kicks short and long weren’t accurate enough to beat the Scottish cover.

The proof came as the second half unfolded. Scottish power up front and inventive lines behind threatened to break Japanes lines.

Emma Orr, who impresses every time she plays, now worked herself into a gap and spiralled past would-be tackles to the line for a wonderful solo try. 14-7

Japan’s options were now more limited. They were being out-manoeuvred at the scrum and line- out – no great surprise – but their attacking was limited largely to run and pass. For as long as the defensive line held firm, they couldn’t find the extra ingredient to escape its bonds.

They composed an attack of many phases, but in the end, having gained little ground, they resorted to the boot. That put the Scots back in possession. Caity Mattinson, now on at No 9, launched a kick ahead, but the wind took it too far. Still, it meant the Asian champions had a long road to travel to gain another point.

As Bryan Easson introduced his reserves, so each of them made a positive contribution. On 54 minutes Coreen Grant, now on the left wing, went over in the corner. 19-7

The Scots were in nearly total command by now, and Lana Skeldon made her usual addition to the scoreboard on the end of a catch-and-drive. That was the invaluable bonus-point. 26-7

Now came a moment to treasure or regret, according to where your support lies. As a Japanese boot tried another chip over the top, it was claimed by Sarah Bonar. She set off for the line, but it was a distance away. Some forwards have been known to stop and search for support; ‘You finish the job!’ But no, she sprinted on as fast as she could, and the hooped shirts couldn’t stop her in time. The rest of the team enjoyed that solo.

Another seven points, as Meryl Smith split the posts. 33-7

In the closing minutes the Scots still faced the unknowable: how many points do we need? The only answer was to continue attacking for all they were worth. Two minutes from time Orr collected a long line-out throw to go over for her second of the match. And that was that.

Result: Scotland 38 Japan 7 Player of the Match: Helen Nelson

15 Chloe Rollie, 14 Rhona Lloyd, 13 Emma Orr, 12 Lisa Thomson, 11 Francesca McGhie, 10 Helen Nelson, 9 Mairi McDonald, 1 Leah Bartlett, 2 Lana Skeldon, 3 Christine Belisle, 4 Emma Wassell, 5 Louise McMillan, 6 Rachel Malcolm (captain), 7 Rachel McLachlan, 8 Evie Gallagher

Bench: 16 Elis Martin, 17 Anne Young, 18 Lisa Cockburn, 19 Sarah Bonar, 20 Jade Konkel, 21 Caity Mattinson, 22 Meryl Smith, 23 Coreen Grant

Japan: 1 Sachiko Kato, 2 Kotomi Taniguchi, 3 Yuka Sadaka, 4 Masami Kawamura, 5 Otoka Yoshimura, 6 Sakurako Korai, 7 Iroha Nagata (captain), 8 Seina Saito, 9 Moe Tsukui, 10 Ayasa Otsuka, 11 Komachi Imakugi, 12 Kanako Kobayashi, 13 Haruka Hirotsu, 14 Misaki Matsumura, 15 Sora Nishimura

Bench: 16 Hinata Komaki, 17 Asuka Kuge, 18 Nijiho Nagata, 19 Jennifer Nduka, 20 Ayano Nagai, 21 Kotono Yasuo, 22 Minori Yamamoto, 23 Nao Ando

Referee: Kat Roche (USA)

Team choices

Bryan Easson was in the happy position of making minimal changes to his starting team. That continuity breeds confidence. The ability to add Sarah Bonar and Jade Konkel to the fray later only added to their strength.

Lesley McKenzie too was happy to introduce only one new player to the squad. Moe Tsukui coming in at No 9. There were two other positional changes. But to overcome their inevitable lack of size and weight, the Sakura do need more options out behind, to keep defences guessing. A first add-on would be really accurate, searching kicks from hand.