WALES were left red-faced in the sweltering heat of Tokyo as Japan claimed a historic 23-8 victory over Robin McBryde’s inexperienced side.
This was the Cherry Blossoms’ first ever win over Wales and, having only narrowly lost to the tourists in Osaka last week, this clinical display saw them deservedly level the two-Test series.
Wales seemed to have taken heed from their Osaka warning when Tom Prydie’s well-worked try had given them a second-half lead.
But the experimental line-up’s lack of nous and know-how was exposed as Japan came roaring back with two scores from Craig Wing and Michael Broadhurst.
Wales had made a far better start than they managed last week, the inclusion of openside flanker Josh Navidi and James King’s switch to his favoured blindside role giving the visitors’ back row more balance.
They looked dangerous behind the scrum as well, with wing Harry Robinson at his electric best as McBryde’s men looked to stretch the Japanese defence.
Wales made a number of promising breaks in an energetic first-half display, but handling errors in the Japanese 22 meant they only had a Dan Biggar penalty to show for their efforts.
His penalty was cancelled out, however, by two from Ayumu Goromaru as Japan held a 6-3 half-time lead.
Wales were not so wasteful in the second half, and they scored the game’s first try moments after the restart.
Biggar and Rhys Patchell, a replacement in the unfamiliar role of outside centre, combined brilliantly in midfield and the Ospreys fly-half threw a looping pass for Prydie to finish in the corner.
The lead was short-lived, though. Only five minutes later, Japan drove purposefully into the Welsh 22 and Wing was on hand to power over.
That score galvanised the hosts, and they pulled further clear when, after ignoring one huge overlap, they took advantage of a second to give Michael Broadhurst a simple touchdown.
Wales worked their way into the Japanese half as they sought desperately to avoid a historic first defeat to Japan.
But, rattled by their hosts’ resurgence, McBryde’s panic-stricken players lost their way and their fate was sealed by Goromaru’s late penalty.