Japan withstood a fierce second-half fightback from Italy in Parma to beat the Azzurre for the first time in the 21-year history of tests between the nations.
The four previous encounters had ended in three wins to Italy and a draw but this time around the Azzurre left themselves too much to do after trailing 22-7 at the break.
Italy brought the score back to 25-24 but a missed conversion at the death denied them victory. However, they will quickly get chance to set the record straight as the teams will meet again in the inaugural WXV fixture in 11 days’ time, in South Africa on Friday, 13 October.
Vittoria Vecchini scored first for Italy from a maul and Beatrice Capomaggi added the conversion, but tries from Komachi Imakugi, Kotono Yasuo, Ayano Nagai and Otoka Yoshimura – the latter two coming while Italy were down to 14 players following a yellow card to Francesca Granzotto – saw Japan take command.
Granzotto made amends by scoring Italy’s second try at the start of the second half, which was converted, before Vecchini got her second of the match. This time the try went unconverted and the score was now 22-19 to Japan.
A penalty from Ayasa Otsuka extended the visitors’ lead to six points which proved crucial in the end as Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi’s try went unconverted to leave Italy one point short.
With 1.82 points gained, Japan have a new rating of 71.31 points, resulting in them climbing above Ireland into 10th place, equalling their highest-ever position from earlier this year.
England stutter to victory
Every other team’s ranking has remained the same with England staying top on 94.55 points after they wrapped up a 2-0 series win over Canada at the StoneX Stadium in north London.
Having won 50-24 in Exeter the week before, England produced a less impressive performance second time around, to only win 29-12, despite Canada playing 63 minutes of the match with 14 players after Gabby Senft’s red card.
Captain Marlie Packer, Ellie Kildunne and Maud Muir scored in the first half, with Amber Reed and Jess Breach adding tries after the break.
Sara Svoboda scored from a charged-down kick for Canada and Taylor Perry added another late on, which Sophie de Goede converted.
New Zealand are still England’s nearest challengers after they beat Australia 43-3 in Hamilton in the second one-sided O’Reilly Cup contest of the year.
The Black Ferns won 50-0 when the sides met in Brisbane at the end of June and the result of the return match – a 25th straight win over the Wallaroos – was never in doubt once the hosts established a 31-0 half-time lead.
After prop Krystal Murray burrowed over for the first try, New Zealand showed no mercy. Patricia Maliepo scored New Zealand’s second try, and then Katelyn Vahaakolo bagged a brace before Sylvia Brunt closed out the half with another.
The Black Ferns looked on course to better their Brisbane score but the Wallaroos dug deep and scored the first points after the break through a Carys Dallinger penalty.
Australia’s defence was much more resolute and New Zealand struggled to reassert their authority until the Wallaroos lost prop Bride O’Gorman to a 69th minute red card.
That was the catalyst to get the scoreboard moving again with Lucy Jenkins and Martha Mataele rounding off the Black Ferns’ 16th consecutive win on a high note.
Historic win for Wales
While the rating of all five sides above them remains untouched, Wales improved theirs to the tune of 0.82 points after a 38-18 win over USA in Colwyn Bay.
Wales scored three tries in each half, with Alisha Butchers, Keira Bevan and Lisa Neumann touching down before the break. Alex Callender added a brace and Sioned Harries went over late on, while Bevan converted her own try and three others.
Sarah Levy, Freda Tafuna and debutant Paige Stathopolous crossed for the visitors in what was Milton Haig’s first match as interim head coach. The Women’s Eagles had never previously lost to Wales.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s rating was marginally improved by their 36-5 win over Spain in Edinburgh.
However, with only 0.16 points awarded to them for the victory, Bryan Easson’s side remain in ninth place.
Spain scored first through Cristina Blanco but Scotland responded magnificently with six of their own.
Sarah Bonar was the first to cross and she was then joined on the scoresheet in the first half by Rhona Lloyd, on her return from GB Sevens duty, and Meryl Smith, as Scotland led 15-5.
Ten minutes into the second half, Francesca McGhie used nimble footwork to score Scotland's fourth before Emma Orr and Elis Martin also got in on the act.