Italy held off a ferocious Japanese comeback to finish their June Tour on a high with a 25-22 in Kobe.
After last week’s defeat in Oita, the Azzurri responded with an impressive display, running in three tries in total.
Tommaso Benvenuti, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Jake Polledri, one of the two changes to the team, got the tries as Italy opened up a 19-3 lead, and despite three late home tries they were able to hold on.
Japan lost second row Samuela Anise to a yellow card after just four minutes for a dangerous tackle, but they were able to hold out while down to 14 men.
BACK THREE IMPRESS
However midway through the first half, Italy did break the deadlock, with full-back Jayden Hayward at the heart of it.
Brought in for this game, Hayward was a menace from the back, finishing with 96 metres with ball in hand, and it was his break that set up the Italian score. Sebastian Negri, so impressive during the NatWest 6 Nations, was in support, and he in turn fed Benvenuti for the try.
Tommaso Allan converted, and soon after Italy had their second, with skipper Ghiraldini getting it from a powerful drive.
Yu Tamura pulled back three points for Japan but it was Italy who led 12-3 at the break.
Italy continued to pile on the pressure at the start of the second half, and after good work from Michele Campagnaro, Polledri showed his strength to score his first Test try. Allan converted once again.
The Azzurri almost had their fourth through Matteo Minozzi, impressing on the wing having switched from full-back, but it was called back for offside.
Instead it was Japan who hit back on the hour, with two tries in the space of six minutes through Will Tupou and Amanaki Mafi, both converted to get back to within two points.
Italy were under pressure, but a pair of penalties from Allan pushed them back to a two-score advantage at 25-17.
Japan did manage a final try in the closing seconds, with Italy down to 14 after Giovanni Licata’s yellow card, but the Azzurri had enough to hold on for an important win, their first of 2018.