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Fitzpatrick helps Ireland flick the switch and more talking points after problematic win over Japan

That was too close for comfort.

Sean Farrell reports from the UCD Bowl

IRELAND WON THEIR second match of their home World Cup, battling back from 14 – 0 down to overcome Japan in the UCD Bowl. Here’s our match report, and below there are some snap post-past talking points.

Ireland flick the switch after half-time

We’ll get around to some of the extremely worrying aspects of Ireland’s display, because the game was, thankfully, decided by the home side’s second half display rather then their awful first 40.

Paula Fitzpatrick celebrates her try with teammates Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After a dis-jointed and listless first half, Ireland managed to flick a switch. Even though they were reduced to 14 women early in the second half, their tackles were packed with venom, the line-speed had the pace of an angry team and, with the influx of Leah Lyons and Paula Fitzpatrick, there was real intent about the attack once they decided to go direct.

In Ali Miller and Sene Naoupu Ireland have players capable of carrying the game to the opposition by any means, but it also took a re-energised forward effort to avoid an embarrassing defeat and put 24 unanswered points on the board to stay on course for the semi-finals.

Sene Naoupu and Honoka Tsutsumi Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Game management

Before a ball was kicked in the tournament, Tom Tierney noted the importance of playing in the right areas. At the time, it felt like a cliche, casually thrown in to fill a space in a sentence. With the hindsight of Ireland’s two performances it’s clearly a problem area he has been working to rectify.

Getting penned into your own half is understandable against a physically dominant Australia with rapid counter-attackers. But Japan enjoyed the same level of territorial success as Nora Stapleton rarely scanned the Japanese back-field or backed her boot to eat up the requisite yardage. The consequence was that the underdogs happily filled the defensive line and comfortably shut down Ireland’s limited running threat.

With help from Miller and Naoupu, that changed in the second half and the Donegal woman’s late touch-finders brought deserved applause from a crowd that had to sit nervously through the majority of a contest that really ought to have been settled earlier.

Set-piece struggle

If there was surprise about how well Australia competed with Ireland’s scrum in the opening match, it turned to outright shock matchday two as Japan laid waste to a platform Ireland expected to build off in this tournament.

Japan are awarded a penalty try by referee Ian Tempest Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ciara O’Connor played a vital role in shoring up the scrum against the Wallaroos, but thrust into a starting role today, she found herself undone time and again by Makoto Ebuchi. The Blossoms ultimately made the advantage tell with a 24th minute penalty try as they demolished the Irish pack under the posts.

There was little respite for Ireland at line-out time either and sorely missed the towering presence of Marie Louise Reilly with Cliodhna Maloney’s darts not hitting target. Mercifully, Ireland again introduced power off the bench to help them force a victory.

Defensive indiscipline

While Tierney’s attack faced a red and white wall to run at through the first half, the visitors found a porous resistance. Without the hard-hitting Jenny Murphy, Ireland struggled with their spacing and were constantly stabbed through by diminutive fleet-footed attackers.

Claire Molloy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In scrambling to make their hits, there was a certain amount of panic about Ireland and they were fortunate not to lose Maread Coyne to at least a yellow card when she thundered a high hit in to Enko Hirano. That was one of five high tackles Ireland were guilty of before Katie Fitzhenry was sin-binned for the offence early in the second half.

France might not let Ireland off the hook quite so easily.

Ireland dig themselves out of jail with big second-half comeback against Japan

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