Japan eliminate Scotland after thriller to qualify for first ever World Cup quarter-final

Japan celebrate their historic win9. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Scotland have missed out on a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final following a thrilling 28-21 defeat against hosts Japan in Yokohama.

The result sees Japan finish top of Pool A to qualify for the last eight for the first time in their history, setting up a mouth-watering clash against South Africa.

Despite Scotland taking an early lead, Japan fought back to take control of the match and threatened to run away with the match.

However, a spirited second half fightback gave Scotland hope but Japan hung on for a historic victory.

Going into the game, Scotland knew the only way they could qualify would be with a win by more than seven points, whereas Japan knew they were about to do what no team from Asia had done before if they could keep their heads.

With both sides well aware of what was at stake, the game got off to ferocious start and it was to be Scotland who would draw first blood.

Finn Russell capitalised on some early Scotland pressure, finding his way through the Japanese backline to silence a previously boisterous home crowd.

Greig Laidlaw converted but the early advantage wasn’t to last as Kotaro Matsushima continued his impressive tournament, racing away from helpless Scotland players for his fifth try of the tournament. Yu Tamura converted to level the scores.

Matsushima of Japan breaks clear to score their first try. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Fukuoka scores Japan's fourth try against Scotland. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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The home side were in the ascendancy and Scotland were soon punished further after what will undoubtedly be considered one of the tries of the tournament.

A series of quick-feet and incredible offloads to evade flailing tackles saw Japan rip through the Scotland defence with Keita Inagaki going over from close range.

After Tamura converted again, Scotland knew they had a mountain to climb but their task was made even harder as they went further behind before half time.

Japan produced yet more sensational rugby when Tim Lafaele’s clever kick pierced the Scotlish rearguard and Kenki Fukuoka sprinted through confused blue shirts to carry the ball over the line.

Whatever Gregor Townsend said to his team during the break clearly didn’t work as Japan soon picked up their fourth try and subsequent bonus point when the teams returned for the second 40.

Fukuoka was quickest to react as Scotland lost possession in the middle of the park as sped away to put Japan further ahead under the posts.

Scotland’s quarter final hopes were slipping away and needed something of a miracle if they were to have any home of a place in the last eight.

Zander Fagerson's try gave Scotland hope (Photo by Gary Hutchison/ SNS Group)

Scotland players dejected after World Cup exit (David Davies/PA Wire)

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A rare attack saw them breach the Japan defence, allowing WP Nel to burrow over from close range.

Having halted the Japanese momentum, Scotland were then able to capitalise further as replacement Zander Fagerson picked up Jonny Gray’s offload to score from close range.

With memories of that incredible Six Nations comeback against England earlier this year still fresh in their minds, Scotland started to believe a repeat could be on the cards.

However, Japan showed they could turn the screw in defence as well as attack as they repelled any further Scotland scoring attempts and hung on for victory.

Scotland miss out on a quarter-final place at a World Cup for only the second time, while the hosts, who finish Pool A with a 100% record after winning all four matches, now face two-time winners South Africa in Tokyo.

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