World Cup host Japan produced yet another extraordinary upset when they secured a historic 19-12 win over Ireland.
In a shock result that rivals their “miracle of Brighton” defeat of South Africa at the 2015 tournament, the Brave Blossoms took the lead through a Kenki Fukuoka try halfway through the second half and hung on desperately with a courageous defensive effort.
The replacement wing wriggled over on the hour mark to score the winning try of a frenetic Pool A clash as the Brave Blossoms pulled off a breath-taking upset.
Japan’s Brave Blossoms can now add the “Shizuoka Shock” to the “Brighton Miracle” after toppling South Africa at the 2015 tournament.
Ireland, who thrashed Scotland 27-3 in their opening game, had looked in control after first-half tries from Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney.
But they went off the boil as Japan grew into the match, roared on by a partisan crowd of 47,000.
Fukuoka made the difference, wriggling over on the overlap to complete a stunning team try and put the home side in front — where they stayed, leaving Ireland’s players slumped on the turf in disbelief.
Kotaro Matsushima, hat-trick hero of Japan’s 30-10 win over Russia in last week’s tournament curtain raiser, posed an early threat on as Japan edged a cagey opening.
Flyhalf Yu Tamura fluffed a makeable penalty, before Ireland took the lead after 13 minutes when the rampaging Ringrose rose brilliantly to snaffle Jack Carty’s hanging kick into the corner.
Carty, stepping into for Ireland’s talismanic playmaker Johnny Sexton, produced another moment of magic seven minutes later, dinking a clever chip that he managed to tip back to full-back Kearney to crash over.
Japan refused to buckle, however, and Tamura kept them in it with three clutch penalties.
Regular captain Michael Leitch’s introduction after half an hour provided an instant impact, but Ireland survived to go into halftime up 12-9.
Tamura missed a three-pointer 14 minutes after the interval that would have tied the game.
But Japan’s swarming pressure soon told, Fukuoka showing superb footwork to sneak over and give Japan the lead, triggering deafening cheers at Ecopa stadium.
Another Tamura penalty extended Japan’s advantage to 19-12 with eight minutes remaining before Fukuoka effectively sealed the result with another tremendous burst that kept the ball in Irish territory until the final gong.
Ireland, who came into the tournament as the world’s top-ranked team but have never won a World Cup knockout match, will look to bounce back against Russia.
Japan, whose target is a first-ever place in the last eight, know they still have no margin for error with games against Samoa and Scotland to come.
Pens: Tamura 4
Tries: Ringrose, Kearney
Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 William Tupou, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6 Kazuki Himeno, 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 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 Kenki Fukuoka
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Josh Van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadgh Beirne, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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