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Ireland obliterate Japan with slick performance as Sexton marks 100th in style

Ireland’s attack was superb as forwards and backs linked for some stunning scores.

Ireland 60

Japan 5

THE NOISE WENT to another level. Every single one of his team-mates ran to mob him over near the right corner flag. And then, after emerging from the pile-on with a big grin, Johnny Sexton nailed the conversion from out on the right.

johnny-sexton-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-on-his-100th-cap-for-ireland-with-andrew-conway Johnny Sexton celebrates his second-half try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That try celebration was a fitting moment for captain Sexton on his 100th Ireland cap and on a day that felt like a big moment for Andy Farrell’s team.

They played with a consistent verve and confidence in a nine-try victory that was a continuation of what we saw against England here at the Aviva Stadium back in March. The level of interplay between forwards and backs went to another level today as Ireland physically dominated the visiting Japan, who were admittedly very disappointing.

Sexton departed to a standing ovation in the 62nd minute – James Ryan taking over as skipper – surely feeling as if his team is in a good place ahead of next weekend’s visit of the All Blacks to Dublin.

The challenge will, of course, be on a completely different scale – especially in a physical sense – but Ireland boss Farrell and his coaching team have cause for a degree of belief after this dismantling of a Japan team who pushed the Wallabies close two weeks ago. 

Ireland’s pack was dominant as the new front row of Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher, and Tadhg Furlong led the way, but they were also very skillful. Player of the match Jack Conan typified the combination of dynamism and high skill levels. 

Indeed, some of the offloading and catch-passing from Ireland here was All Blacks-esque as Andrew Conway bagged a hat-trick and James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park, Sexton, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, and Cian Healy also dotted down.

This is the attacking model Farrell and co. have been pursuing and this was a convincing demonstration of what they’re working towards, with Sexton and his team-mates making good decisions on the ball and showing a ruthless edge too. They offloaded and passed accurately throughout.

No one in Ireland camp will be getting too carried away but they will equally have a nice bounce ahead of the big one next weekend.

james-lowe-makes-a-break James Lowe dotted down Ireland's first in the fourth minute. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland, playing in a purple jersey, had already offloaded 14 times and made nine linebreaks by the interval after an utterly dominant four-try opening half that had them 29-0 in front.

They scored their first just four minutes in after an intelligent pass from the impressive Gibson-Park allowed Bundee Aki to break down the left-hand side before he linked with Conan, who calmly drew the last defender and freed Lowe to sprint home from 20 metres out.

Sexton converted from the touchline and also slotted the conversion after Ireland’s stunning score in the 11th minute. 

It started with Conway defusing a Japanese box kick near his own 22 and then Ireland sprung on the counter. Josh van der Flier and Aki made big surges off Sexton passes to bring them to the halfway line, then Furlong’s slick link pass out the back allowed Sexton to make a halfbreak, offloading to van der Flier, who offloaded to Tadhg Beirne, who passed to Aki.

The centre was hauled down on the Japanese 22 but Gibson-Park scooped the ball up and rolled a sumptuous grubber kick out to the right for Conway to gather and dot down.

Japan couldn’t stem the tide in any way and Munster man Conway had his second by the quarter mark. This time, a huge Irish maul down the left of Japan’s 22 saw Gibson-Park swing the ball away, with Sexton looping off Aki for a return pass before he shipped it on to Hugo Keenan, whose gorgeous long left-handed pass freed Conway for a finish on the right.

andrew-conway-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Andrew Conway scored two tries in the first half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Conway nearly had a hat-trick soon after but a TMO review ruled that Yu Tamura had just beaten him to the ball in Japan’s in-goal area, but Ireland weren’t finished their first-half scoring.

Garry Ringrose’s superb read and tackle on opposite number Timothy Lafaele in midfield gave Ireland a turnover penalty and they scored from their ensuing lineout attack. Sexton carried in midfield, then Ringrose cleverly picked and darted over the top of the breakdown, offloading back inside to reward Gibson-Park’s positive support line with a try.

Ireland probably should have added a fifth during extensive pressure on Japan’s tryline with the clock in the red and the visitors down to 14 men following Atsushi Sakate’s yellow card for repeated Japanese infringements but James Ryan knocked-on to signal half-time.

They missed a chance soon after the break too after Porter’s turnover penalty at the breakdown allowing Farrell’s men into the Japan 22 but they lacked accuracy and turned the ball back over.

But Japan couldn’t help but invite Ireland back in, missing touch from a penalty and watching Keenan strike a beautiful 50:22 kick to within five metres of their tryline. Ireland won their lineout, then Gibson-Park bounced into the shortside to pop the ball to Sexton, who broke Yutaka Nagare’s tackle to score.

johnny-sexton-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-on-his-100th-cap-for-ireland-with-his-teammates Ireland celebrate Sexton's score. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Even with rain now falling, Ireland were in no mood to let up and Aki finished another sublime passage in the 55th minute as Furlong broke in midfield to link with Porter, then slick catch-pass skills from Sexton, Keenan, Conway, and Conan allowed the Connacht man to finish in the right corner.

With Ireland starting to empty their bench, Japan finally registered a return punch as Siosaia Fifita scored out on the left, but it couldn’t spoil the celebration of Sexton’s achievement as he departed to an almighty roar.

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Replacement lock Iain Henderson’s hack through and aggressive chase to pressure Japan’s retreating defenders helped Ireland to a five-metre scrum with just over 10 minutes left and they struck clinically again as Ringrose stretched out to dot down off sub scrum-half Conor Murray’s pass. 

Conway had his hat-trick on the 74-minute mark as Ryoto Nakamura spilled a Murray grubber kick five metres out from his own tryline, allowing Conway to gather and dive over.

The hammering was completed by replacement loosehead Cian Healy barging over from close-range, with sub out-half Joey Carbery converting.

__________

Ireland scorers:

Tries: James Lowe, Andrew Conway [3], Jamison Gibson-Park, Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Cian Healy

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [4 from 6], Joey Carbery [2 from 3]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [1 from 1]

Japan scorers:

Tries: Siosaia Fifita

Conversions: Rikiya Matsuda [0 from 1]

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki (Keith Earls ’67), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Joey Carbery ’62), Jamison Gibson-Park (Conor Murray ’58); Andrew Porter (Cian Healy ’55), Rónan Kelleher (Dan Sheehan ’55), Tadhg Furlong (Finlay Bealham ’55); Tadhg Beirne (Iain Henderson ’58), James Ryan; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier (Peter O’Mahony ’51), Jack Conan.

JAPAN: Kotaro Matsushima; Dylan Riley, Timothy Lafaele (HIA – Ryohei Yamanaka ’39 to ’40) (Ryoto Nakamura ’67), Ryoto Nakamura (Ryohei Yamanaka ’55), Siosaia Fifita; Yu Tamura (Yusuke Niwai ’41 to ’51) (Rikiya Matsuda ’55), Yutaka Nagare (Naoto Saito ’55); Keita Inaki (Craig Millar ‘), Atsushi Sakate (yellow card ’41) (Yusuke Niwai ’64), Jiwon Koo (Asaeli Ai Valu ‘); Jack Cornelsen, James Moore; Ben Gunter (Yoshitaka Tokunaga ’27) ((Tevita Tatafu ’59), Pieter Labuschagne (captain), Kazuki Himeno.

Referee: Nika Amashukeli [GRU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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