Japan have beaten Ireland 19 points to 12 in a most amazing game that would have had every single fan of the sport on the edge of their seat.
Ahead of the game there was plenty of chat from the Japan squad about how they truly believed that they could win this one.
Not many others believed them though – Ireland showed in their opening game where they destroyed Scotland that they deserve their number 2 spot in the world and almost everyone expected a comfortable Irish win today.
In the opening phases of play things seemed to be going to plan – they were 12-0 up within 22 minutes and Jack Carty seemed to have a clear plan that was working with targeting the Japanese left wing with cross field kicks.
Keith Earles was having great success in taking those kicks and Ireland looked like they would start to run away with things.
But from that 22nd minute, the Irish didn’t score a single point. The game started with a crazy pace and Japan just kept it up minute after minute. In defence and attack Ireland were never given time to settle and Japan just kept asking them questions.
But it wasn’t an out of control, manic pace from Japan. It was very deliberate and focused and Ireland found it impossible to stop Japan making ground with ball in hand.
While Japan had loads of possession and territory they had to rely upon penalties to get themselves on the scoreboard. But they took these 3 pointers and at half time it was a close 3 point game.
In the second half Japan didn’t take their foot of the gas for a second and showed little signs of tiring. The real highlight came in the 54th minute when they scored a beautifully worked try.
They’d worked their way up to the line and when the forwards couldn’t get over, they quickly switched the point of attack shipping the ball smoothly through the backs.
Each man pinned his opponent and gave the pass meaning Kenki Fukuoka was put in space and able to sprint 10m in to score a memorable try.
With that Japan took the lead and while the Irish fought back hard as you’d expect, Japan never really looked like giving up the advantage.
A few times Ireland got close but the Japanese defence held them out and when they got turn over ball they played great heads up rugby and if there was an attacking opportunity they would take it – even if from within their own 22.
As the clock ticked down Ireland had one final attack but the Japanese managed to create an interception and were so close to scoring another try.
Keith Earles should be applauded for his efforts to chase back and make the covering tackle but from there the Japanese could run down the clock camped on the Irish line.
In a very weird ending, Ireland actually got the ball back and there was a second where you wondered… could Ireland go end to end here?
But Joey Carbery then kicked the ball into touch deliberately after the final gong had sounded. The move came as a total shock to all watching and even the ref was asking his team, “is that it?”
When the final whistle went the Japanese team and most of the stadium went wild. It wasn’t a lucky win – it was an incredible performance against one of the best teams in the world.
Ireland will wonder what went wrong but they will have plenty to review in the follow-up analysis. They were flat and predictable and couldn’t cope with the pace that Japan forced the game to be played at.
That’s not good enough from a team that has hopes of going deep in this tournament.
For Japan all of their players deserve praise but Michael Leitch, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare and Shota Horie really shone.
Japan are now No.1 in the Group and you have to say they could easily hold that spot all the way to the end of the group stages and go through to play the runners up of Group B – and wouldn’t you believe it, that’s likely to be South Africa.
Scotland would have been looking on and will deservedly be very scared that they could be going out in the Group stages.