Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 28 September 2021


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Hello and welcome to today’s liveblog, as Ireland take on Japan in the Summer Series.

Here are the teams for today’s game.


15. Hugo Keenan
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Chris Farrell
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Joey Carbery
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rónan Kelleher
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. James Ryan (captain)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris


16. Rob Herring
17. Ed Byrne
18. John Ryan
19. Ryan Baird
20. Gavin Coombes
21. Craig Casey
22. Billy Burns
23. Shane Daly


15. Kotaro Matsushima
14. Semisi Masirewa
13. Timothy Lafaele
12. Ryoto Nakamura
11. Siosaia Fifita
10. Yu Tamura
9. Naoto Saito

1. Keita Inagaki
2. Atsushi Sakate
3. Jiwon Koo
4. Wimpie van der Walt
5. James Moore
6. Michael Leitch (captain)
7. Lappies Labuschagné
8. Kazuki Himeno


16. Kosuke Horikoshi
17. Craig Millar
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Jack Cornelson
20. Tevita Tatafu
21. Kaito Shigeno
22. Rikiya Matsuda
23. Shane Gates

Referee: Karl Dickson [RFU].

It is anthem time.

Our man, Murray Kinsella, will report on today’s game. He’s in the best seat in the house at the Aviva.

It will be fascinating to see how Joey Carbery gets on today, two years on since his last start for Ireland. One late change for Japan sees Tevita Tatafu come in for Kazuki Himeno in the backrow.

Game about to kick off.

2 minutes – Early tackle by Ronan Kelleher on Michael Leitch, the Japan captain. Jamison-Gibson Park subsequently kicks out on the full.

3 minutes – Penalty to Japan after James Ryan is penalised for pulling Michael Leitch’s hand at the lineout. Kickable distance.

PENALTY, JAPAN – Ireland 0-3 Japan (Yu Tamura)

3 minutes, 30 seconds on the clock and Tamura gets Japan off the mark.

6 minutes Carbery’s kick ahead is brilliantly gathered by Hugo Keenan; Doris, McCloskey and Dillane make impressive carries, Doris has a second go, Chris Farrell puts his hand up for work. Japan, however, defend well and after 11 phases, Carbery opts to kick again.

Despite retaining possession, Ireland lose 40 metres and the Japanese recover the ball, winning that mini-battle.


8 minutes – Ireland 7-3 Japan

Now that was impressive, some superb handling and carrying from Ireland, the ball moving swiftly through the hands, Ronan Kelleher, Doris, Stuart McCloskey, Ultan Dillane and Finlay Bealham and Gibson-Park all involved, Farrell crashing over from a short distance, but the key to the score, was the pace of the attack, and the quality of the tip-on passes, mixed with the variety of the attack – Gibson-Park making a break infield to keep the Japanese guessing. Carbery adds the conversion.

10 minutes – penalty to Japan and Yu Tamura kicks to the corner. 

11 minutes – TRY JAPAN (Leitch) Ireland 7-10 Japan 

Ireland had defended that restart sloppily, leading to the favourable field position and from the line-out, they score. Their set-piece was excellent there, Leitch finishing off the move. Tamura adds the conversion.

14 minutes - 

Great pressure from Japan; Semisi Masirewa makes  a superb catch over Keenan’s head; Ryoto Nakamura makes a brilliant run thereafter, Stuart McCloskey is pinged for offside and the Japanese are opting to go for the lineout rather than the posts.

18 minutes TRY JAPAN (Timothy Lafaele)

TMO checking the legality. It may be wiped out for a forward pass.

Try ruled out. 

Right, let’s breathe. That 16-phase movement was incredible, Japan playing with verve and pace, the offloads mixed with clever lines of running, ultimately leading to Timothy Lafaele, the centre getting across. However, Naoto Saito had been identified for making a forward pass earlier in the move. Ireland survive. They’re in a game here, though. At the minute, Japan have the edge.

23 minutes - an unforced error from Kelleher eases the pressure on Japan that Ireland had gradually built; the hooker misdirecting his throw at the Japan five-metre line, Japan escaping unpunished. A minute later, Carbery runs into Doris and the Japanese are awarded a scrum. Ireland look rusty, Japan organised.

25 minutes – Jordan Larmour’s kick goes dead. Ireland struggling to find any rhythm. .


28 minutes – Ireland 12-10 Japan

This was heads-up rugby at its best. Joey Carbery kicks ahead, recovers possession and suddenly the play opens up for Ireland, McCloskey, Peter O’Mahony and Hugo Keenan stretching the Japan defence to breaking point, McCloskey making good decisions twice in that move – first by passing when he should have, secondly by knowing he had the strength to make the line when the ball returned to his hands. Carbery misses the conversion.

29 minutes - Dillane fails to claim a Tamura restart for a second time in this match; Ireland subsequently concede their sixth penalty of the game, and Tamura is lining up a kick at goal.

30 minutes – Tamura’s kick bounces off the post. Ireland still lead, 12-10 – and Shane Daly has just come in to replace Larmour.

33 minutes James Ryan knocks on. Scrum, Japan. Grubber from Tamura ends in touch, line-out to Ireland. 

34 minutes – Ryan gets up after receiving treatment. Fit to carry on.

35 minutes – TRY JAPAN (Timothy Lafaele)

TMO checks the original decision and it is confirmed, Tamura lining up the conversion now.

36 minutes – Ireland 12-17 Japan (Tamura conversion)

There was great quality in that Japanese try, not just in terms of Timothy Lafaele’s lines of running and finishing instinct but also thanks to Siosaia Fifita’s handling, in terms of how he collected a crossfield kick and then offloaded to Lafaele.

38 minutes – just when it looked like Ireland would bounce back with a score, Kotaro Matsushima makes a crucial interception. Ireland counter attack, but Stockdale’s pass goes forward.

40 minutes – Joey Carbery held up over the line after great play from Dillane, Farrell and Carbery, too. Ireland looked good in that passage of play – Kelleher’s lineout was accurate, the maul was effective. Ireland going for  a tap and go.

40 minutes TRY IRELAND (Bealham) Ireland 17-17 Japan

HALF-TIME Ireland 19-17 Japan

Ireland 19-17 Japan

Well, that was a breathless first-half. While Ireland played sloppily – forward passes, knock-ons, misdirected throws at the line-out – and yet they lead. Their powerful carries are getting them go-forward ball, Carbery’s probing and kicking game is troubling the Japanese, Peter O’Mahony is making a noticeable contribution and the tries have been well finished.

The final one of the half, by Bealham, was from a tap-and-go, Bealham the third carrier in the move. McCloskey’s earlier try was excellent, too.

That’s the good stuff. The bad is lengthy. Ireland have coughed up cheap possession from Japanese restarts; they have been caught cold by some blistering Japanese attacking and only for a disallowed Timothy Lafaele try, they’d be behind.

Second half about to kick off.

41 minutes That was a better restart from Ireland, O’Mahony with the take. Caelan Doris subsequently delivers a forward pass.

43 minutes – Chris Farrell is injured. He put in a big hit on Ryoto Nakamura. By the looks of things, his game is about to end. Billy Burns set to come on

43 minutes So Burns is on; Farrell is sitting up, thankfully, so while he won’t play any further part in this game, the fact he is able to walk safely from the pitch is a massive positive. 

43 MINUTES TRY JAPAN (Siosaia Fifita) Ireland 19-22 Japan

44 minutes Ireland 19-24 Japan (Tamura conversion)

Tamura’s little grubber kick off dissects the Ireland defence and Siosaia Fifita reacts quickest to collect and touch down. Tamura then converts.

47 minutes What started promisingly, ended in disappointment as Caelan Doris’ attempted offload ended in Naoto Saito’s hands. The earlier set-piece, Ryan collecting at the front, Dillane, Kelleher and then McCloskey adding hands to the move appeared to have put Ireland into a good position. Ireland, in the end, were lucky to get away with a sloppy pass. 


48 minutes Ireland 24-24 Japan

A fine Ireland try, O’Mahony collecting in the line-out, van der Flier finishing it, showing great confidence and upper body strength to get across but the try owed so much to Gibson-Park’s dynamic burst from the base of the ruck.

49 minutes Ireland 26-24 Japan (Carbery conversion)

51 minutes Joey Carbery is also getting treatment at the moment.

53 minutes – TRY IRELAND (Stockdale) Ireland 33-24 Japan

Kotaro Matsushima goes off injured; Burns sends a kick into the Japan 22. Chance for Ireland and a try for Ireland; Kelleher’s line out is good, O’Mahony gives quick ball, carries from the hooker, then Dillane, then McCloskey, followed by van der Flier and smart passing from Gibson-Park – who is a much better player than is generally assumed – leads to Stockdale scoring to become the joint-sixth highest scorer in Irish international rugby.

56 minutes TRY JAPAN (Naoto Saito) Ireland 33-31 Japan

After some structured attacking – a nice way of saying some boring play - Naoto Saito finishes off a brilliant Japan counter attack.

Semisi Masirewa was the creator of that score, although the supporting line ran by Saito was something else. 

58 minutes – So John Ryan and Ed Byrne have come on.

59 minutes Ireland win a penalty after an infringement from Shane Gates; good play by Hugo Keenan to set it up.

Ryan Baird has come on for Dillane.

60 minutes Another penalty awarded to Ireland, and James Ryan tells Carbery to go for the posts. Nice tip on pass from van der Flier to set up Ireland’s attack prior to that penalty.

62 minutes (PENALTY IRELAND, Carbery) Ireland 36-31 Japan

64 minutes While some of Ireland’s work has been sloppy today, some of Josh van der Flier’s and Peter O’Mahony’s has been exceptional.

A stat has just appeared; Ireland have missed 19 tackles in this game. Way too many.

67 minutes Seconds after Yu Tamura and Naoto Saito are subbed off for Japan, Ireland get another penalty, Kelleher and van der Flier winning a breakdown penalty.

68 minutes PENALTY IRELAND (Carbery) Ireland 39-31 Japan

70 minutes Japan are beginning to tire, it seems. Ireland dictating events a lot more than they did in the first half. Van der Flier excelling, Gavin Coombes coming on for his debut.

73 minutes Some fine play by Ryan Baird, who must be the fastest second-row in the world. Japan’s fatigue beginning to show. Result looks safe for Ireland, who finally, are in control of this game. 

75 minutes That was like watching some bad rugby league; Japan trying to keep the ball alive but Ireland’s defence was top notch. Their organisation and line speed was exceptional.

Josh van der Flier has been named player of the match. Fully deserved.

78 minutes Fine carry from Ryan Baird after Doris had won some quality ball off the line-out. Burns’ crossfield kick was a little overcooked. Craig Casey gets 90 seconds …. up, 90 seconds just to try and do something.


Ireland 39-31 Japan

At times Japan were outstanding, thrillingly creative, and it looked as though an upset was a possibility in that first half. However, Ireland’s game management was much better in the second half and with Josh van der Flier having an exceptional game, they gained control of proceedings. In the end, the eight-point winning margin was justified but many aspects of the performance lacked precision. 

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About the author:

Garry Doyle


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