Kenki Fukuoka scored a decisive try as Japan claimed a famous 19-12 win over Ireland in a stunning World Cup upset in Fukuroi on Saturday.
What a result this was! In front of tens of thousands of delirious home fans, Japan produced a performance of passion and gumption to shock an Irish side that had come into this tournament as World Rugby’s No 1-ranked side.
Ironically, it was the Boks who were on the receiving end of a major upset loss to Japan at the last World Cup, but it’s this result that may well end up benefiting the Springboks who were expected to face Ireland if they topped Pool A. This result may well change all that.
In a shocking development that undoubtedly bore many similarities to the ‘Miracle of Brighton’ four years ago, Japan had gone into half time trailing by three points, but they finished the first period with momentum on their side.
The hosts carried that confidence into the third quarter, and the nerves and fatigue could be clearly be seen taking effect on a rattled Ireland side.
After a period of real dominance from the home side, the key moment came when Fukuoka went over in the corner. Ireland barely had time to recover from conceding the lead, and Japan had the opportunity to go further ahead and did so with a fourth penalty off Tamura’s boot.
In a grandstand finish to the game, Ireland camped inside the Japan half but Fukuoka almost sealed the match when he intercepted a wild pass and sprinted downfield, only for Keith Earls to haul him in and prevent a try from being scored.
In an attempt to turn the ball over, Earls knocked on, handing possession back to the hosts. But Ireland were again given the slightest of lifelines with another turnover, but they bizarrely kicked the ball away and to much dismay also into touch, an act which confirmed Japan’s now famous win.
The victory throws Pool A wide open, but also puts Japan in a prime position to emerge as pool winners, which will set them up for a mouthwatering quarter-final encounter with the Springboks, who are likely to advance as Pool B runners-up.
Japan – Try: Kenki Fukuoka. Conversion: Yu Tamura. Penalties: Yu Tamura (4).
Ireland – Tries: Garry Ringrose, Rob Kearney. Conversion: Jack Carty.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 28, 2019
Japan – 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 William Tupou, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (c), 6 Kazuki Himeno, 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Lomano Lemeki.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbury, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Photo: Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images