Tuesday 16 January 2018

Joe Schmidt's Ireland run in five tries to sweep aside Japan

Japan 13 Ireland 35

Josh van der Flier of Ireland scores his side's second try
Josh van der Flier of Ireland scores his side's second try

Brendan Fanning in Tokyo

It wouldn’t be normal for players to stroll casually onto the field when afforded the honour of leading the team out for a 50th cap. But when it’s 29 degrees and 72 per cent humidity it’s best to conserve your energy.

So that’s what Devin Toner did at a steaming Ajinimoto Stadium this morning.

He stayed on the field for 80 minutes, part of an Ireland side that had to work far harder than last week. They were most effective when they did the hardest work – 10 metres either side of the ruck – and looked shattered when it was all over. It didn’t feel like a 22 point winning margin, two points outside the bookies’ handicap.

Five tries to two was fair enough – both sides could have had more, but the TMO had to knock back touch downs for each side.

So credit to Japan who had to cope with a sickening start. Straight away they looked far more aggressive and accurate in the tackle, and did well to turn Ireland over by pouring through the ruck after a John Ryan carry. With numbers over on the wide outside they shifted the ball quickly across the middle – dropped it under minimal pressure – only for Garry Ringrose to scoop it up and run half the length of the field. There was exactly 2:50 on the clock. And with Paddy Jackson’s conversion they were 0-7.

To their credit the home side stuck to the task, especially at the tackle where they were quickly back on their feet, taking the space, and making life hard for Kieran Marmion.

Jack Conan of Ireland makes a break against Japan
Jack Conan of Ireland makes a break against Japan

But by 11 minutes they were 0-14. This time Ireland had to work a lot harder, first setting up camp in the Japan 22 and then running through lots of phases before Josh van der Flier got over for his first international try, through the flimsy tackle of Jumpei Ogura, with Jackson adding the points.

Even so Ireland were having to work much harder that last week. At half time in Shizuoka the tourists were 31-3 ahead – this time it was 28-8. Not a massive difference in numbers but certainly a harder slog.

And when Kotaro Matsushima got over for a fine try five minutes after Marmion had scored Ireland’s third, to put them 21-3 ahead, the crowd had something to sustain them. It was Marmion who missed him five metres out after a monstrous carry from second ro Uwe Helu got them in behind the Ireland defence.

Rhys Ruddock got Ireland’s fourth, nine minutes before the break, but as with the first half Japan came steaming out of the blocks, immediately after the break, and had a try ruled out by the TMO for a knock on in the build-up by scrumhalf Yutaka Nagare.

And despite getting a penalty out of  it – they were on an advantage play – they overthrew the lineout, and then conceded a penalty of their own. This is a team who have a long way to go to learn how to win.

Having made three replacements at the break they had extra impetus and it took Ireland until 52 minutes before bringing on some fresh legs. Yet it was Japan who scored next as they put further distance between themselves and last week’s performance.

There was a chunk of good luck about the way the ball deflected to Akihito Yamada, on 63 minute, but they deserved it. It brought them to 13-28, not enough to impact on where the result was going but good for the game.

As for Ireland, who hadn’t scored since the 31st minute, they were struggling. Marmion had a try claim denied on 68 minutes before replacement Sean Reidy got over with two minutes left for a decent try. They looked relieved the effort was over.

Japan: R Noguchi; (R Yamanaka 68) A Yamada, K Matsushima, Y Tamura, K Fukuoka; J Ogura (R Matsuda ht), Y Nagare (F Tonaka 53); S Ishihara (K Inagake 49), Y Niwai (S Horie ht), T Asahara (T Watanabe ht), L Thompson, U Helu (K Yatabe 64), M Leitch, A Mafi, S Matsushashi (Y Tokunaga 68)

Paddy Jackson of Ireland kicks a conversion against Japan
Paddy Jackson of Ireland kicks a conversion against Japan

Ireland: A Conway; K Earls (T O’Halloran 55), G Ringrose (R Scannell 79), L Marshall, J Stockdale; P Jackson, K Marmion (J Cooney J cooney 73); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 61), J Tracy (N Scannell 51), J Ryan (A Porter 61), K Treadwell (J Ryan 51), D Toner, R Ruddock (capt) (S Reidy 55-61 HIA), J Conan, J van der Flier (S Reidy 68)

Referee: JP Doyle (England)

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