Australia dented Japan’s hopes of reaching the International Swimming Federation (FINA) Men’s Water Polo World League Super Final as they beat the host nation 7-5 at the Intercontinental Tournament in Yokohama.
The Australian outfit demonstrated their resilience on their way to grinding out a narrow win to continue their recovery from their opening day defeat to the United States.
In what was a tense, hard-fought affair at the Yokohama International Swimming Pool, Australia managed to edge 4-2 ahead at the break and it was a lead they never relinquished.
The home side managed to keep pace with their opponents during the third period, with the Australians taking a slender 5-3 advantage into the final stanza.
Despite an onslaught from the Japanese team, Australia held firm as they wrapped up a victory which increases their chances of reaching the season-ending Super Final in June in Huizhou, China.
Joel Swift and Rhys Howden were the top scorers for the Aussies with two goals apiece, while Koji Takei’s excellent hat-trick proved to be in vain as his team finished on the losing side.
“A couple of times when we were not patient they punished us on the counter," Australia coach Elvis Fatovic said.
"I think all five goals they scored were from counter-attacks, it is a big advantage in their play.
“In the first two quarters we missed some opportunities, but by the same token our goalie made a couple of good saves.
“The next games, against China and Kazakhstan, will give us some idea of where we need to improve.”
Elsewhere, Bret Bonanni was in remarkable form as he recorded the highest individual haul of the competition so far by scoring nine goals in the United States' 19-7 thrashing of Kazakhstan.
The result maintains the American side’s 100 per cent record at the event and, having arguably come through their toughest test against the Australians, they look set to end the tournament unbeaten, though they face a tricky test with Brazil in their next match tomorrow.
In the other match to take place today, 2015 Super Final bronze medallists Brazil made light work of China with a comprehensive 17-4 success, with Josip Vrlic bagging a treble.
The US lead the standings on three victories ahead of Australia and Brazil, who are in close proximity on two wins.
Japan and Kazakhstan are currently locked in a battle for the fourth qualification spot.
The tournament in Yokohama continues tomorrow, with the US against Brazil the headline clash, while China take on Australia and Japan will be looking to bounce back when they face Kazakhstan.