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Japan stun world No. 2 Ireland with 19-12 victory at Rugby World Cup

Japan coach Jamie Joseph said his team needed "to play the game of their lives" if they were to beat world No. 2 Ireland, and the Brave Blossoms did just that, winning 19-12 on Saturday in the biggest upset of the Rugby World Cup so far.
In front of 47,813 passionate fans at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, four penalties and a conversion from Yu Tamura and a try from Kenki Fukuoka, who was only added to the side hours before the kick-off, saw Japan record their first-ever win over Ireland and go top of Pool A.
The Brave Blossoms were forced to change their line-up after William Tupou injured his left hamstring in the morning, with Lomano Lava Lemeki replacing him on the left wing and Fukuoka coming onto the bench.
Despite the late change, it was Japan who started best amid a wall of noise, keeping ball in hand from the start and forcing the Irish defense to dig deep.
But they were unable to turn pressure into points with the bounce of the ball preventing Kotaro Matsushima from touching down and Tamura missing a relatively simple shot at goal.
Some quick thinking from Jack Carty almost caught Japan napping but the Brave Blossoms held firm with Lemeki clearing his line well on a couple of occasions.
Ireland were relentless though, and another clever kick from Carty found Garry Ringrose, who dived over for the opening try in the 13th minute.
Japan responded quickly with a penalty from Tamura, only for his opposite number Carty to once again produce a clever kick from which Rob Kearney scored.
The Brave Blossoms dominated the next 15 minutes as their forwards matched the physicality of the men in green, even stealing an Irish line-out, and another Tamura penalty made the score 12-6.
An impressive Japan scrum nearly took the roof off the stadium before Tamura closed out the half with a third penalty.
The halftime stats showed Japan dominated possession (58 percent) and territory (53 percent). They had also made 92 percent of their tackles and forced the Irish into losing one of their own scrums and one of their own line-outs.
The key would be if they could turn that advantage into points in the second half.
Tamura missed a chance to pull the teams level in the 55th minute with a penalty that was just beyond his range.
But three minutes later, the stadium erupted as Fukuoka went over following some powerful rucking from the forwards and quick hands from the outstanding Timothy Lafaele.
Tamura's conversion put four points between the teams and meant Ireland needed a try, a tough ask given the big deficit they have ever turned around to win any Worlds Cup match was three points.
It became even tougher when Tamura landed his fourth penalty of the night in the 71st minute.
It proved impossible, with the Japan defense holding firm as history was made.


© KYODO
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