Flat Ireland fail to dampen high spirits of travelling fans

Anxiety grows that Ireland will not find the all-conquering form of last year before the tournament reaches its knock-out stage

Irish fans   at the game between Ireland and Russia at Kobe Misaki stadium in  Hyogo, Japan. Photograph:   Kaz Photography/Getty Images

Irish fans at the game between Ireland and Russia at Kobe Misaki stadium in Hyogo, Japan. Photograph: Kaz Photography/Getty Images

 

Ireland’s rugby tour in Japan has so far been more about mystery than magic, and on a steamy night in Kobe, Joe Schmidt’s team continued to leave everyone in the dark as to their form.

They beat Russia 35-0, with Garry Ringrose finishing a haul of five tries with a pretty running move that gave the terrific travelling Irish support a lift.

However, overall it was another stop-start performance from Ireland. An increasing anxiety that they will not tap into the kind of all-conquering form of a year ago before this tournament reaches its knock-out stage now hangs over their progress.

“We started really well again and got to two early tries... and then we made a bit of hard work of it,” Schmidt said after the match.

“I don’t think we lost our way. We just didn’t convert our chances, and when you look back there were some really good chances. In that third quarter there was a little bit of frustration.”

It was an occasion when the distance between home and Japan never seemed greater. In the evening heat the Irish supporters, in full voice again, made a celebration of the occasion. In the morning broadcast studios in Dublin and London, a cast of former players gave bleak verdicts on the latest outing.

Evidence of Ireland’s decline seemed to be mounting. Yet after another 80 minutes it remains very difficult to gauge where this Ireland team are right now.

“It’s very hard to say,” admitted Jonathan Sexton, who captained Ireland for the first time. “After Scotland we felt we were in a brilliant place. After Japan we felt pretty low. Today we did a job.”

They travel to Fukuoka on Friday. A seaside break might be just the ticket.

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