VANCOUVER — Kotaro Matsushima scored a try in the 70th minute Saturday as Japan defeated Canada 26-22 in a men's international rugby match.
Takeshi Kizu had the other try and Yu Tamura kicked four penalties and added two converts for the 10th-ranked Japanese.
Taylor Paris, Ray Barkwill, Jamie Cudmore and Aaron Carpenter replied with tries for No. 18 Canada, while Gordon McRorie added a convert.
Tamura nailed his fourth penalty to make it 26-17 in the 77th minute for Japan, but Carpenter scored a try in the 80th for Canada to cut the deficit to four after a missed convert.
The hosts then drove down deep into Japanese territory in added time, but couldn't push the ball over the goal line as the visitors held firm.
The match was the first new Canadian head coach Mark Anscombe, who got the job at the end of March after fellow New Zealeander Kieran Crowley left the program for a club in Italy.
Anscombe named a mix of youth and experience to the squad because of injuries and rugby sevens commitments as he begins to build towards qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.
Trailing 13-12 at the half, Cudmore — one of eight 2015 World Cup veterans in Canada's starting 15 — bowled his way over in the 46th minute after Paris broke through the Japanese line for a 17-13 lead but McRorie missed the convert.
Japan, which stunned South Africa at the World Cup and fielded a roster that included a number of its Super Rugby professionals, cut the lead to one at 17-16 in the 52nd minute when Tamura booted his third penalty.
Yoshiya Hosoda, in his test debut for Japan, was shown a red card to reduce his side to 14 men just two minutes later after cleaning out McRorie, who wasn't contesting a breakdown deep in Canada's end.
McRorie had a chance to stretch Canada's lead in the 60th minute, but pushed a penalty wide.
Japan would made the hosts pay 10 minutes later when Matsushima took a nice feed from Kaito Shigeno and ran in it to make the score 21-17 before Matsushima added the convert to stretch the lead to six.
Saturday marked the first international men's fifteens match on the artificial turf at B.C. Place Stadium, a venue that attracted more than 60,000 spectators over two days for the inaugural HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament in March. Attendance against Japan wasn't immediately available, but only half the lower bowl was open to spectators.
Canada grabbed the lead in the seventh minute when Paris just got over the line after a couple of nice moves to make it 5-0, but McRorie missed the ensuing convert. The match was the first for Paris with Canada since blowing out his knee right before the World Cup.
After Japan responded with Tamura penalty to make it 5-3, Canada scored its second try of the afternoon in the 21st when Barkwill finished off some patient build-up play. McRorie's convert stretched the lead to 12-3.
But as was the case so often under Crowley, critical mistakes cost Canada.
Nick Blevins was stripped of the ball by Japan's Taiyo Ando, who broke the other way on a move that would eventually lead to Kizu's try in the 34th and Tamura's conversion to cut the deficit to 12-10.
Canada's Matt Evans then compounded the problem by dropping a simple pass that opened the door for Tamura's penalty right before halftime to make it 13-12 for the visitors.
Notes: Canada will meet No. 19 Russia on June 18 in Calgary before facing No. 14 Italy in Toronto on June 26. ... Canada is now 8-15-2 all-time against Japan, with the last victory coming in 2005. The two draws between the countries came at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. ... Japan will host the World Cup in 2019, as well as the men's and women's sevens tournaments the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
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