Japan's Incredible Win Over Ireland Ignites Host Nation
The second weekend of the Rugby World Cup has just whizzed fans off their feet, showcasing five matches of scintillating action.The main talking points were centered on Japan’s performance against Ireland on Saturday as well as the Sunday match between Australia and Wales that produced a down-to-the-wire thriller.
Argentina was up first however against Tonga at Hanazono Stadium in Osaka prefecture, with both teams looking to secure their first World Cup victory.
It was the Pumas that raced out to 28-0 lead after just 25 mins with hooker Julian Montoya scoring a hat-trick. The Tongans managed to peg one back when fullback Telusa Veainu galloped over close to the line.
Tonga scored the only points of the second half when Veainu got his second try but Argentina’s first quarter blitz was in the end too much for Tonga to overcome. The final score ended on 28-12.
Argentina head coach, Mario Ledesma, was not completely satisfied with the result because England awaits next Saturday and it’s a must-win for the Pumas. He said, “Even if this was our best performance today, it’s not enough to play against England. Losing the ball and missing tackles will make it very difficult to win against England.”
Incredible scenes unfolded on Saturday evening in Shizuoka as Japan once again toppled a giant of World Rugby.
Evoking memories of the “Brighton Miracle”, this time the upset was over former world number 1 ranked Ireland.
The Brave Blossoms trailed 9-12 at the halfway mark but shut out Ireland second half with a converted try to winger Kenki Fukuoka and a fourth penalty to create history.
The shell-shocked Irish side could not break a solid Japanese defensive effort after it looked like Ireland was cruising 12-3 after 20 minutes.
Flyhalf Jack Carty in for the rested Johnny Sexton set up both tries with accurate kicks over the defense that allowed Garry Ringrose to score the first and Rob Kearney the second.
But Japan wouldn’t give up and two penalties from Yu Tamura’s boot kept the hosts in the hunt with the second 40 to play.
The turning point came in the 60th minute with Japan hard on attack. A cut-out pass by center Ryoto Nakamura sucked in the Irish defenders and quick hands by Timothy Lafele left Fukuoka free to cross over in the corner.
With the conversion and another three pointer by Tamura, Ireland was sunk, sparking the crowd into rapturous celebrations that lasted well into the night.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said of the defeat, "I'd like to first of all congratulate the Japanese team for the energy, the intensity, the skill they brought to the game tonight. They are a big team, they played big and they were very difficult to contain.”
His counterpart, head coach Jamie Joseph said, "The Irish are a quality side and we have been preparing for this game a hell of a lot longer than the Irish have. The last year at least, if not the last three years. The Irish have been thinking about game this since Monday.
“When you think about what we witnessed tonight you feel really proud as a coach and a rugby team and you didn’t want to let down the country."
Japan now tops Pool A with nine points followed by Ireland on six and Samoa with five. There are two equally important games to come but for now the Japanese nation has finally awoken to the Rugby World Cup and hopes are high for Japan to enter the playoff stages.
The Springboks bounced back from their All Black loss in emphatic style by thrashing minnows Namibia 57-3.
South Africa’s neighbor could do little to stem the flow of tries as the Springboks’ forward’s domination up front allowed the team to score nine tries.
A brace to hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi and a pair to center Makazole Mapimpi got things rolling for the South Africans and the game was effectively over inside the first 26 minutes.
Rassie Erasmus, head coach of South Africa said, "Out of the all the teams last week, we had the toughest pool game, so we needed to bounce back with a win. We got the win and the five points. It was awful looking at the table and seeing us on zero table points. So, that's a positive.”
Uruguay was unable to replicate last Wednesday’s performance when the South American team upset Fiji 30-27. With just a four-day turnaround to prepare for Georgia, that was always going to be a tough ask.
The Georgians outscored Uruguay five tries to one on Sunday at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama. While the first half was a tight affair with Georgia leading 12-7, the second half saw Uruguay tire and Georgia ran out comfortable 33-7 winners.
Head coach of Uruguay, Esteban Meneses remarked on the loss, "Georgia are very good in the scrum and line maul. We need to improve in these areas. We're a very good team and we have very good players and they've shocked the world once - why not again against Australia or Wales?"
Which brings us to the final game that was played on Sunday between the Wallabies and Wales. The Northern Hemisphere team finally snapped a five-match losing streak against Australia in World Cups, in a hard-fought 29-25 thriller at Tokyo Stadium.
Australia’s first half was littered with handling errors which Wales fully capitalized on. The second produced a much more fluid performance from the Wallabies as the fightback began but Wales held on to complete a famous victory.
Head coach of Wales, Warren Gatland said of his team’s performance, "This team as a squad has grown up in terms of game management. That's improved significantly. We've learned a lot from those experiences about management, coming off the bench, shown real character. We won some key turnovers towards the end of the game. It was pleasing to handle the six-day turnaround. Georgia wasn't an easy encounter. Our composure and fitness was really good. We soaked up a lot of pressure."
The game was not without controversy however, as a bizarre call by French referee, Romain Poite left many fans fuming. While Australia was hot on attack, Samu Kerevi was adjudged to have targeted his tackler’s neck (Rhys Patchell) with his forearm while carrying the ball up.
Kerevi said of that penalty, “The way that rugby is going, I might as well join the NRL (Australian National Rugby League) next seeing as how they (the referees) police it. It's hard when you slow it down to one-tenth of a second. It looks like I'm going for his neck, but there's no malice in it.”
On the field, captain Michael Hooper could be heard arguing with Poite about the ruling, saying that Patchell had a “terrible tackle technique” after the flyhalf tumbled backwards in the contact. He then asked the French official, “So you can’t run into the tackle anymore?”
World Rugby has been tough on any contact made to the head by a tackler but this was the first time a ball-carrier had been penalized for the same offense.
The resulting 50-meter kick, in off the crossbar gave Wales an eight-point buffer with five minutes left to play in the first stanza.
One minute later, Welsh scrumhalf Gareth Davies timed his run to perfection to intercept a Will Genia pass and run unopposed for his team’s second try and give Wales a handy 23-8 halftime lead.
It was a tough blow to take for the Australians just before halftime, all because of what looked like a very harsh call on Kerevi’s attacking technique.
Earlier in the game, Hadleigh Parkes scored Wales’ first try which was soon cancelled out by one to Adam Ashley-Cooper, both five-pointers set up, under penalty advantage, through kick-passes from their respective flyhalfs. Welsh no. 10 Dan Biggar also added a drop goal, and conversion before failing a HIA in the 27th minute. Bernard Foley and Biggar’s replacement, Patchell traded penalties before Poite and TMO Ben Skeen from New Zealand, spent four minutes deliberating over Kerevi’s bulldozing run.
Scores to Dane Haylett-Petty and captain Michael Hooper plus a Matt Touma penalty got Australia to within one point with 13 minutes to play. Patchell though slotted a penalty two minutes later to increase the gap to four which was enough to close out for victory.
- Todd Phillips: Sept 30, 2019