Ireland finish job in style to end tour on a high note
Impressive opening quarter lays the foundation for a convincing victory
Ireland’s fullback Andrew Conway eludes the tackle of Japan winger Kenki Fukuoka during the Test match in Tokyo. Photograph: kazuhiro Nogi/Getty
Tries: G Ringrose, K Marmion, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, S Reidy
Cons: P Jackson (5)
Tries: K Matsushima, A Yamada
Pen: J Ogura
Another clear-cut victory.
“I tell ya,” countered Joe Schmidt at the end of a 12-match international season, stained by defeats in Edinburgh, Cardiff and New Zealand’s revenge, “the players said it was like playing in deep water.”
Aquarobics during a scoreless third quarter proved manageable as Ireland had constructed a 28-8 lead.
“Second half we just tried to control the game,” said the Ireland coach. “We knew we were on a limited fuel supply. They had no intentions of kicking the ball out so it was a battle of strategy for us to control our energy levels and for them to stress us.”
Heavy humidity coupled with Japanese desire prompted Schmidt to compliment Michael Leitch’s heart and Luke Thompson’s disruptiveness as their Gaijin kept the enthusiastic 29,354 crowd humming.
(This 50,000 capacity Ajinomoto stadium will be crammed come the opening World Cup match in 2019.)
Japan, shamed by the 50-22 thumping in Shizuoka, displayed some venom from kick-off. Thompson – a Kiwi father-of-three recalled age 36 as Japan lack home-grown locks of similar stature or grit – and cohorts flooded the space where Kieran Marmion sought to generate a smooth supply.
From an early turnover the Brave Blossoms showed All Black intent when flashing possession wide. Problem is they lack the cohesion or accuracy witnessed in Auckland. When Amanaki Mafi flung ball on the floor, Garry Ringrose gratefully gathered to glide under the posts.
For all their willingness to play, Japan’s absence of the precise technique displayed by Schmidt’s fledgling Ireland meant they were cooked after an unforgivably porous opening 16 minutes.
Three more tries followed. Josh van der Flier, finishing multiple phase play off Devon Toner’s imperious lineout; Marmion, a clever snipe to reward Luke Marshall’s incision and the relentless Rhys Ruddock, who passed two Head Injury Assessments in successive Saturday’s within a combined total of 13 minutes, made Ireland’s scrum dominance count.
Paddy Jackson, flawless in green since a missed conversion against Scotland last February, added all the extras.
Matsushima was born in South Africa, Helu in Tonga. Such places remain the source of Japanese power.
Schmidt’s Ireland know plenty about Japan now. He’s seen their ridiculous, time-consuming adherence to formality and knows of guaranteed disruption from hotel to training base or stadium on match day.
The 51-year-old has also, already, pored over every second that he exposed eight new caps – James Ryan, Andrew Porter, Jacob Stockdale, Dave Heffernan, Rory Scannell, Kieran Treadwell, Rory O’Loughlin and lastly John Cooney – to during this globe-trotting month.
Take James Ryan in isolation. Eventually, much will be made of his first touch as an Ireland lock, striding onto an Earls – easily the tour MVP with a fantastic 370 metres worth of carries and a “champion bloke,” said Schmidt, “in the team environment” – pass for a try on his debut in New Jersey. I
In Schmidt’s world, where Ryan will be spending much of his time in the next two years, it’s more likely he will have to answer for attempting a low percentage offload in Japan’s 22 not long after replacing Treadwell.
That almost led to seven points, for either team, as Matsushima powered up field. Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale, another hugely promising arrival, stalled the marauding centre.
All the points dried up in the third quarter as Ireland flagged considerably. September in Japan is not only a blooming spectacle but significantly less humid.
Plenty of men proved their worth. Sean Reidy was selected over the potentially peerless Dan Leavy on Saturday but the Kiwi flanker repaid the late call-up for an injured Tommy O’Donnell with a fine try to ensure this unique tour ended on a decent note.
IRELAND: A Conway; K Earls, G Ringrose, L Marshall, J Stockdale; P Jackson, K Marmion; C Healy, J Tracy, John Ryan; K Treadwell, D Toner; R Ruddock (capt), J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: N Scannell for J tracy, James Ryan for K Treadwell (both 51 mins), T O’Halloran for K Earls (54 mins), S Reidy for R Ruddock (HIA, 54-60 mins) and for J van der Flier (67 mins), D Kilcoyne for C Healy, A Porter for John Ryan (both 60 mins), J Cooney for K Marmion (72 mins), R Scannell for G Ringrose (78 mins).
JAPAN: R Noguchi; A Yamada, K Matsushima, Y Tamura, K Fukuoka; J Ogura, Y Nagare; S Ishihara, Y Niwai, T Asahara; L Thompson, U Helu; M Leitch (capt), S Matsuhashi, A Mafi. Replacements: S Horie for Y Niwai, T Watanabe for T Asahara, R Matsuda for J Ogura (all half-time), K Inagaki for S Ishihara (48 mins), F Tanaka for Y Nagare¨ (53 mins), K Yatabe for U Helu (63 mins), Y Tokunaga for S Matsuhashi, R Yamanaka for R Noguchi (both 67 mins).
Referee: JP Doyle (England).