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Ireland came to Japan hoping to make history but this wasn’t what they had in mind.
On an unforgettable evening in front of 47,813 fans in Shizuoka, the World Cup got a turbo-charge thanks to a stunning display from hosts Japan who put themselves on course for a first quarter-final with a performance for the ages.
They had to do it the hard way, coming back from a 12-3 deficit after Ireland took control in the opening quarter. They kept Ireland scoreless for more than an hour and the visiting team grew more desperate and disjointed.
In the end, they were scrambling to keep the losing bonus point that keeps them in control of their own destiny. However, this is a damaging defeat.
With Jack Carty pulling the strings and Garry Ringrose ruling the airwaves, they were ahead on the scoreboard but lacked the energy and control they showed in their opening day win against Scotland six days ago.
And, eventually, it cost them. Their set-piece accuracy and discipline deserted them as they allowed the tournament hosts back into the game and the relentless defending took its toll to the delight of the majority of the stadium decked out in red and white as Kenki Fukuoka scored the all important try.
Japan were well worth their win, their team attacked with belief and intent from at every opportunity and asked questions of Ireland that had the visitors scrambling time and time again.
If the result will cause shockwaves back home, it will breathe life into Asia’s first World Cup and puts Scotland in real jeopardy of going home after the pool.
International Rugby Newsletter
Ireland, who have an increasingly long injury list after Chris Farrell and Rob Kearney were forced off with Jack Conan donning a protective boot to the stadium and looking set to be ruled out, now must win with bonus points against Russia on Thursday and Samoa on in two weeks’ time to set up a quarter-final.
It now looks like being against New Zealand, unless the hosts slip up against Samoa or the Scots.
Played in high humidity in front of a raucous home crowd always looked dangerous and that danger became apparent from the second minute when they thwarted a promising Irish attack and almost went the length of the field in a nine-phase attack that had the locals energized in the stands.
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