Ireland eventually get the better of Japan in breathless encounter

Ireland found their groove in the second half but were caused trouble by the Japanese flair

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale scores a try during their summer Test win over Japan. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale scores a try during their summer Test win over Japan. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Ireland 39 Japan 31

The scoreline only tells the half of it. Ireland were flattered to lead 19-17 at the end of the first half but, having problem solved to telling effect during the interval, ultimately subdued the fearless Brave Blossoms to win by two scores.

Imprecise in the first period, Ireland found their accuracy and their groove in the second and, with James Ryan leading the way, upped their line speed to rein in Japan’s bewitching and at times bewildering array of angles and offloads.

Ireland were, by comparison, more direct and in the end more effective too in outscoring Japan by five tries to four as the lead changed hands seven times but the players will feel this one, if more in exhaustion than soreness. Josh van der Flier, as ever, led the tackling stats with 13.

That Ireland scored three of their tries from really well executed launch plays off lineouts underlined the significance of the three lost throws in the first-half. Paul O’Connell and co problem-solved at half-time to telling effect and this was all the more significant as the penalties continued to mount against Japan.

Peter O’Mahony’s experience and leadership shone through as well as his athleticism as he claimed lineouts and received restarts which had been another problem area for Ireland and led to the concession of 10 points in the first-half.

Peter O’Mahony catches a ball from a lineout. Photo: Donall Farmer/AFP via Getty Images
Peter O’Mahony catches a ball from a lineout. Photo: Donall Farmer/AFP via Getty Images

Their work at the breakdown also improved after the resumption, while much of their best work and go-forward was generated by Caelan Doris, Ronan Kelleher and Stuart McCloskey.

Joey Carbery had a mixed bag but his place kicking was excellent and he lasted the full 80 in an important staging post on his way back. Better is sure to come.

The heavy morning rain at least relented about an hour before kick-off but Japan suffered a significant blow when number ‘8’

Kazuki Himeno was injured in the warm-up. Tevita Tatafu was promoted from the bench while Amanaki Mafi was restored to the replacements.

Word was that Japan had been practicing their chips and short kicking game in training at Wanderers during the week and from the off they declared their intentions when the classy 32-year-old outhalf Yu Tamura, whose performance was close to an exhibition, chipped over the green line, albeit Hugo Keenan read the danger and gathered.

Tamura opened the scoring after Ryan clearly tugged Michael Leitch’s arm at a Japanese lineout before Naoto Saito, in his first start, went off his feet to give Ireland their first access to the opposition 22.

The key, apart from Ireland securing the lineout, was the first big carry by Doris over the gainline. Jamison Gibson-Park’s snipe and Kelleher’s rumble from McCloskey’s inside pass maintained the momentum before Chris Farrell straightened and beat some weak tackling to score beside the posts.

But Ireland failed to deal with the restart as the ball slipped through Ultan Dillane’s fingers and Jordan Larmour was pinged for rolling on the deck when trying to tidy things up.

Japan went to the corner and speedily mauled infield toward the posts with an irrepressible low drive, with Leitch completing the touchdown.

Timothy Lafaele scores a try. Photo: Donall Farmer/AFP via Getty Images
Timothy Lafaele scores a try. Photo: Donall Farmer/AFP via Getty Images

Ireland were fortunate the lead was not extended to 10 soon after. The 29-year-old debutant, Semisi Masirewa, yet another Fijian winger to qualify through residency for another country, reclaimed a high kick before Tongan-born left-winger Siosaia Fifita latched onto a deft cross kick by Tamura, with O’Mahony defending the right wing.

Japan took Ireland through the phases off a quick tap and a lineout in the corner before Timothy Lafaele straightened onto a short pass from Tamura as David Kilcoyne shot out of the line and stepped Keenan to touch down under the posts. But the review showed the last pass was forward, which it didn’t need to be.

After one Irish attack ended when Joey Carbery ran into Doris, Ireland engineered a fine try. Keenan’s call and run deep was met with a no-look pull back by Doris for the fullback to break the line. McCloskey linked with O’Mahony, who bounced Masirewa before offloading for McCloskey to score adroitly in the corner.

Carbery couldn’t land the difficult conversion and Ireland had another reprieve after a restart again slipped through Dillane’s fingers when Tamura’s penalty hit the post.

But not for long.

Another deft crossfield kick saw Fifita gather and beat both Shane Daly, on for the injured Larmour, and Carbery before running infield and link with the supporting Lafaele on the switch. He stepped Keenan again and took the tackles of Daly and Carbery from behind to slide over. Tamura’s fine conversion made it 17-12 for Japan.

Peter O’Mahony breaks through the Japan line. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho
Peter O’Mahony breaks through the Japan line. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

O’Mahony won a trademark penalty in the jackal to earn an attacking lineout but Carbery went through with a pass which Matsushima picked off when practically in his face.

Matsushima undid his good work when firing a pass into touch outside his 22 and big carries off a maul by Kelleher, Farrell and Dillane led to a tap penalty for offside, the pack keeping it tight before Finlay Bealham burrowed over in between the posts.

Somehow Ireland finished the half two points ahead, when they could easily have been two scores behind.

On the resumption Ireland lost Farrell after his head was caught in a collision, Bully Burns coming on and Carbery moving to ‘12’.

Soon, a well-executed strike move worked Matsushima into space. Although Keenan made his tackle the Irish blindside was left vacant from the ruck and Tamura sniped up the touchline before executing the sweetest of grubbers infield off the outside of his right foot. Fifita gathered to finish and Tamura converted.

Maintaining the game’s trend, Ireland again responded quickly. Kelleher’s throw hit O’Mahony for Josh van der Flier to carry and pass infield for Doris, who charged into contact and over the gain line once more. Kelleher and Kilcoyne then latched onto van der Flier to help him over the line.

Japan, and the game, was the poorer for Matsushima being helped off with what seemed a nasty injury when coming off worse after tackling Keenan in the air.

From the next attacking lineout on the 22 this time it was Kelleher’s turn to come steaming around the tail of the lineout at impressive full tilt. Josh van der Flier also carried well before Jacob Stockdale finished in the corner from Gibson-Park’s long floated pass.

Carbery’s touchline conversion even afforded Ireland the breathing room of a two-score led. It didn’t feel comfortable and it wasn’t

Carbery kicked the ball away to Masirewa, who countered and offloaded to Amanaki Mafi who worked a switch with Fifita for the eye-catching Saito to finish a disarmingly slick and easy 65 metre try. Tamura converted to cut Ireland’s lead to 33-31.

James Ryan called for calm, instructing Carbery to land a brace of penalties, the second after strong work over the ball by Kelleher.

Ryan Baird made a big impact off the bench in an endgame also notable for Gavin Coombes’ debut.

Japan kept running from deep and kept trying things, but Ireland kept them at arm’s length to win with a tad more ease than looked likely for much of the encounter.

Breathless stuff.

Scoring sequence: 3 mins Tamura pen 0-3; 8 mins Farrell try, Carbery con 7-3; 11 mins Leitch try, Tamura con 7-10; 27 mins McCloskey try 12-10; 36 mins Lafaele try, Tamura con 12-17; 40 (+2) mins Bealham try, Carbery con 19-17; (half-time 19-17); 43 mins Fifita try, Tamura con 19-24; 49 mins van der Flier try, Carbery con 26-24; 52 mins Stockdale try, Carbery con 33-24; 59 mins Saito try, Tamura con 33-31; 62 mins Carbery pen 36-31; 69 mins Carbery pen 39-31.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD); Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College), Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan); Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf), Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster); Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne), Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers), Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians), James Ryan (Leinster/UCD, capt), Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork /Constitution), Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD), Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD).

Replacements: Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) for Larmour (31 mins), Billy Burns (Ulster) for Farrell (43 mins), Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) for Kilcoyne, John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) for Bealham (both 59 mins), Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) for Dillane (60 mins), Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) for Kelleher, Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) for O’Mahony (both 71 mins), Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) for Gibson-Park (79 mins).

Japan: Kotaro Matsushima; Semisi Masirewa, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Yu Tamura, Naoto Saito; Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate, Jiwon Koo, Wimpie van der Walt, James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain), Lappies Labuschagné, Tevita Tatafu.

Replacements: Craig Millar for Inagaki, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jack Cornelson for van der Walt, Shane Gates for Matsushima (all 51 mins), Amanaki Mafi for Tatafu (54 mins), Kosuke Horikoshi for Sakate (62 mins), Kaito Shigeno for Saito, Rikiya Matsuda for Tamura (both 67 mins).

Referee: Karl Dickson (England).

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.