Five Watford season ticket-holders have returned from a trip to Japan as heroes after saving a man who was drowning in a river.

The group were on a trip of a lifetime to watch England take on France in Yokohama at the Rugby World Cup but a devastating typhoon changed their plans.

John Ryan, Ian Mills, John Pochettino, Michael Sullivan, and James Dowdall arrived in the Japanese city on October 11 to the news the game was no longer going ahead because of Tyhoon Hagibis.

One of the most widespread and violent storms in Japanese history claimed 83 lives.

The friends, who had spent the week touring the country, were left at a loose end with the match postponed but decided to brave the stormy weather on the Saturday afternoon.

They ventured out onto the deserted streets of Yokohama - but little did they realise that within minutes, they would play a huge part in a dramatic rescue of a stranded Japanese man.

Mr Mills, who lives in Abbots Langley, said: "The place was in lockdown but we thought we'd go out to the bay and see the storm brewing. We suddenly saw a woman leaning over a gate stretching into the river. She was trying to grab this man's hand.

"He was really struggling to get out of the river. He was in a desperate situation. His head was only just out of the water."

The group realised the man was in trouble and with no sign of any other help, they leapt into action.

Three of them took turns holding the man's hand to stop him drifting away while two others ran off to get help.

By luck, Mr Dowdall, or 'Ladder Man' as his friends have since nicknamed him, found a ladder in a nearby alleyway and they rushed back to the river with it.

The ladder was lowered into the river and the friends began shouting instructions to the stranded man.

Watford Observer:

They used a ladder to help free the man from the river

Despite the language barrier, he understood what the Watford supporters were trying to get him to do and he managed to climb up the ladder and to safety.

Minutes later, the group heard the sound of sirens.

Watford Observer:

Mr Ryan said: "We saw the man was completely exhausted so we laid him on a bench and his girlfriend was thanking us.

"But then events took a strange turn. A bystander had called 999 and we could hear them arriving.

"At this point, the girlfriend and the bystander ran off leaving us all very confused.

"So with nobody left speaking a word of English, we decided to leave the scene after checking the rescued man was okay."

Mr Mills added: "We had no idea if help was on the way. It was quite funny in the end that we found a ladder when we needed one."