It was a bad result for Ireland in their group a clash with the hosts as Japan won 19-12
Jack Carty had been handed the no.10 jersey and justified his inclusion during a fine opening quarter from Ireland as two clever kick open up the Japanese defence. Firstly a beautifully weighted cross-field kick on 14 minutes was superbly gathered by Garry Ringrose for the game’s first try. Then seven minutes later Ireland added another 7 points when Carty dinked a chip over the top of the Japanese rearguard and tipped his own kick down to the awaiting Rob Kearney who managed to touch the ball against the whitewash for the try. Carty’s conversion gave Ireland a 12-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The momentum of the game began to shift in the second quarter as the host unyielding line speed and work-rate continually tested the Irish defence. Angus Gardner was quick with the whistle at the breakdown as the penalty count began to build up against the Irish defence. Yu Tamura had been wayward with his first penalty kick on 6 minutes, made amends with his next effort. Two further penalties before the break brought the host to within three points at the break. Half-time saw the score read Japan 9 Ireland 12.
I’m sure Joe Schmidt would have encouraged his side to slow down the tempo in the second half and try to suck the momentum from the game. However, in order to implement this plan Ireland firstly needed to get their hands on the ball. The Japanese kept the ball alive t ever opportunity and threaten the Irish line on numerous occasions before eventually scoring the try that their pay richly deserved from Kenki Fukuoka on the hour mark. Quick hand from their backline stretched an overworked Irish defence to breaking point and Fukuoka made the most of a two on one overlap to score in the corner. Tamura’s superb touchline conversion gave Jamie Joseph’s side a four point lead and put Ireland out of penalty or drop-goal range.
Chasing the game
Schmidt sent on a raft of reinforcement as the Irish chased the game. Carbery came in for Carty who had faded badly after his superb start, Sean Cronin came on for captain Rory Best who was out on his feet after 140 minutes inn six days and Larmour was sent on to see if he could re-create his dancing feet shown to such good effect against the Scots last Sunday. But it was all in vain as Japan held firm and their defence remained impenetrable. The Irish had targeted the breakdown pre-game, however, it was the hosts who won that battle as they won 113 rucks compared to Ireland’s 106. 38-year-old Luke Thompson epitomised the Japanese efforts as he trugged off the field like a boxer who had just went the full 14 rounds.
Ireland did finally get some sustained possession as the game ticked into the last five minutes. They searched for a converted try to level the game and looked dangerous with a couple of half-breaks in the Japanese 22. However, as Luke McGrath whipped a ball out towards the right wing it was intercepted by Kenki Fukuoka who looked set to race the length of the field to score, only a magnificent covering tackle from Keith Earls salvaged a losing bonus point for the Irish.
So the hosts move to the top of Pool A. Their meeting with Scotland on 13th October looks like determining Ireland’s quarter-final fate. Ireland will look to regroup now as Joe Schmidt is certain to rest many of the tired Irish bodies for Thursday mornings game against Russia.
One player who looks certain to miss out will be Leinster’s Jack Conan. The flanker was seen in a moon boot on the touchline during the game and Schmidt maybe forced to call up a replacement if as looks likely Conan’s tournament is over. Ulster’s Jordi Murphy would be in ploe position to get a call if this turns ut to be the case.
Josh van der Flier
Jack Carty – 1C
Garry Ringrose – 1T
Rob Kearney – 1T
Sean Cronin for Best 61′
Dave Kilcoyne for Healy 45′
Andrew Porter for Furlong 45′-54′ & 63′
Tadhg Beirne for Henderson 65′
Rhys Ruddock for O’Mahony 54′
Luke McGrath for Rob Kearney 67′
Joey Carbery for Carty 61′
Jordan Larmour for Farrell 61′
Yu Tamura – 3P 1C
Isileli Nakajima for Ingaki 63′
Asaeli Valu for Koo 53′
Wimple van der Walt for Thompson 63′
Michael Leitch for Mafi 30′
Fumiaki Tanaka for Nagare 56′
Kenki Fukuoka for Yamanaka 49′ – 1T