Japan beats Italy 34-17 in first of 2 tests

Japan's Kenki Fukuoka, second right, is congratulated his try in the first half of a rugby match against Italy in Oita, southern Japan Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Kyodo News via AP)
Japan's Amanaki Lelei Mafi, center, scores a try in the first half of a rugby match against Italy in Oita, southern Japan Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Kyodo News via AP)
Japan's Kenki Fukuoka scores a try in the first half of a rugby match against Italy in Oita, southern Japan Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Kyodo News via AP)
Japan's Amanaki Lelei Mafi, third left, is celebrated his try in the first half of a rugby match against Italy in Oita, southern Japan Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Kyodo News via AP)
Japan's Kotaro Matsushima scores a try in the last half of a rugby match against Italy in Oita, southern Japan Saturday, June 9, 2018. Lomano Lava Lemeki and Kotaro Matsushima scored second-half tries on Saturday to lead Japan to a 34-17 win over Italy in the first of two tests, Japan's first win over Italy in five years. (Kyodo News via AP)

OITA, Japan — Lomano Lava Lemeki and Kotaro Matsushima scored second-half tries on Saturday to lead Japan to a 34-17 win over Italy in the first of two tests. It was Japan's first win against Italy in five years.

Lemeki gave Japan a 25-17 lead on the hour mark and Matsushima ran in Japan's fourth try five minutes later to widen the advantage to 32-17. Yu Tamura added a conversion to complete the scoring for the hosts.

The two countries will play again on June 16 in Kobe, Japan.

Italy took a 7-0 lead on an early try by Tiziano Pasquali that was converted by Tommaso Allan but Japan responded with tries by Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Kenki Fukuoka for a halftime lead of 17-14.

The hosts are using the two tests to tune up for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, the ninth edition of the sport's showcase global event and the first to be held in Asia.

Flyhalf Tamura kicked 14 points, missing only one shot at goal.

Fullback Matsushima crossed for Japan's fourth try in the 66th minute and Tamura completed the scoring with his last conversion.

Italy captain Leonardo Ghiraldini conceded his team had been outplayed by Japan.

"We were not competitive enough today but full credit to Japan for the victory," Ghiraldini said.

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