Lipovitan D Challenge 2005: First Test: Sunday, June 12Japan 12 Ireland 44, Nagai Stadium, OsakaScorers: Japan: Pens: Kyohei Morita 4 Ireland: Tries: Tommy Bowe, Kevin Maggs, Frankie Sheahan, Simon Best; Cons: David Humphreys, Jeremy Staunton 2; Pens: Humphreys 2, Staunton 4
Having ended the Six Nations with consecutive defeats from France and eventual Grand Slam winners Wales, stand-in coach Niall O'Donovan guided the new-look Irish to a comfortable victory.
With neither side asserting full authority in the Nagai Stadium's sultry conditions, Ireland opened the better through two early penalty slots from stand-in captain David Humphreys (3, 8 minutes).
The tourists, who started with two debutants Matt McCullough and Roger Wilson, both from Ulster, in their pack, never relinquished that lead although Japan fly-half Kyohei Morita did keep his side in touch with four well-struck penalties.
He notched his first before Irish scrum-half Peter Stringer set up the visitors' opening try on 14 minutes.
The Munster man dinked a chip in behind the Japanese defence. Tommy Bowe, haring up from his right wing berth, managed to meet Stringer's kick through first, and the Ulster youngster regathered his own stab ahead to score.
Bowe's second try in two outings was converted by Humphreys, but Ireland's experienced fly-half, who was in dominant form in the early stages, was hauled off on 21 minutes for the rest of the game with a cut mouth.
Morita closed the gap with his second penalty, yet the Irish struck back almost immediately.
Gavin Duffy, lining out at outside centre, sniped through the Japanese midfield and flicked a clever inside pass to 70-cap centre Kevin Maggs to bound over and celebrate his first try since the 2003 World Cup.
Humphreys' replacement Jeremy Staunton, who signed for Wasps earlier this month, added the extras for a 20-6 lead.
The Irish, and ex-Munster ace Staunton, ended the half in good stead as he landed a brace of penalties (31, 42) to a sole Morita hit for a half-time advantage of 26-9.
The 25-year-old Staunton, earning his first cap since his 2001 debut, made Japan pay for some silly errors at the breakdown early in the second half by converting two more penalties to Morita's fourth and final effort seven minutes in.
With renowned Japnese winger Daisuke Ohata in the sin-bin for a deliberate offside, two further Irish tries from front rowers Frankie Sheahan and Simon Best killed off the game - making certain of Ireland's first win since their 19-13 Lansdowne Road defeat of England.
New Leicester poach Leo Cullen, who proved a giant in the lineout all afternoon, stole Japanese ball at a set piece close to the home line and Munster hooker Sheahan was driven over easily by his pack on 57 minutes.
Best's try, his first for his country, was a team effort 12 minutes later.
Ireland's backs and forwards kept the ball alive in the lead-in despite some strong defence from the Japanese - most notably ex-Otago centre Reuben Parkinson, who hit Duffy with a thumping tackle.
Full-back Girvan Dempsey was hauled up just a metre away from the try line but Ulster prop Best, who impressed in the loose, was on hand to pick-up and score.
Coach O'Donovan, who takes his side to Tokyo for next Sunday's second Test against the Cherry Blossoms, emptied his bench in the final quarter as Bernard Jackman (Leinster), David Quinlan (Northampton), Trevor Hogan (Munster) and Kieran Campbell (Ulster) all made their senior debuts.
3 minutes: Ireland penalty - David Humphreys - 0-3 8 mins: Ireland pen - Humphreys - 0-610 mins: Japan pen - Kyohei Morita - 3-614 mins: Ireland try - Tommy Bowe - 3-11; conversion - Humphreys - 3-1321 mins: Japan pen - Morita - 6-13 24 mins: Ireland try - Kevin Maggs - 6-18; con - Staunton - 6-2030 mins: Japan pen - Morita - 9-20 31 mins: Ireland pen - Staunton - 9-23 40(+2) mins: Ireland pen - Staunton - 9-26
JAPAN: Goshi Tachikawa; Daisuke Ohata, Reuben Parkinson, Yukio Motoki, Hiroki Mizuno; Kyohei Morita, Watarua Murata; Hiroshi Takahashi, Ken Tsukagoshi, Ryo Yamamura, Takanori Kumagae, Jamie Washington, Hare Makiri, Ryota Asano, Takuro Miuchi (Capt).
Replacements used: Shota Goto for Murata (44-48 mins, 62-ft), Shigeyasu Takagi for Takahashi, Kenji Kasai for Yamamura (both 53), Tomoaki Nakai for Asano (62), Teppei Tomioka for Motoki (73), Hitoshi Ono for Parkinson (75), Not used: Masakazu Nakabayashi.
(15) Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster)(14) Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)(13) Gavin Duffy (NEC Harlequins)(12) Kevin Maggs (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)(11) Anthony Horgan (Cork Constitution/Munster)(10) David Humphreys (Dungannon/Ulster) (Capt)(9) Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster)(1) Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster)(2) Frankie Sheahan (Cork Constitution/Munster)(3) Simon Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)(4) Leo Cullen (Leicester Tigers)(5) Matt McCullough (Ballymena/Ulster)(6) Alan Quinlan (Shannon/Munster)(7) Johnny O'Connor (Wasps)(8) Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Replacements used: Jeremy Staunton (Wasps) for Humphreys (21 mins), Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster) for Sheahan, Reggie Corrigan (Greystones/Leinster) for Horan (both 70), David Quinlan (Northampton Saints) for Maggs (72), Trevor Hogan (Shannon/Munster) for Cullen (74), Kieran Campbell (Dungannon/Ulster) for Stringer (76), Eric Miller (Terenure College/Leinster) for O'Connor (78).
Sin-bin: Daisuke Ohata (Japan) (58 mins) HT: Japan 9 Ireland 26; Attendance: 20,000 Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)