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Ireland Under-19s Lose Series Opener Against Japan

Ireland Under-19s Lose Series Opener Against Japan

Ireland's try-scoring scrum half Jake O'Riordan throws a pass during their opening clash with Japan at Terenure College RFC ©INPHO/Evan Treacy

The touring Japan team came away with the spoils after beating the Ireland Under-19s (supported by PwC) by a narrow margin, 22-19, at Lakelands Park.


Wednesday, March 22 –

IRELAND UNDER-19s 19 JAPAN UNDER-19s 22, Lakelands Park, Terenure College RFC
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Stephen Smyth, Jake O’Riordan, Ethan Graham; Cons: Jack Murphy 2
Japan: Tries: Tulimafua Tupou, Tsubasa Moriyama, Yoshitaka Yazaki; Cons; Joji Takaki 2; Pen: Joji Takaki
HT: Ireland 7 Japan 12

It was three tries each in the end, the well-drilled Japanese National High School selection taking a 12-7 half-time lead through scores from Tulimafua Tupou and skilful prop Tsubasa Moriyama.

The Ireland Under-19s, who have had limited time together, showed glimpses of their potential, with Jake O’Riordan and replacement Ethan Graham both crossing to add to captain Stephen Smyth’s earlier seven-pointer.

The hosts edged in front through O’Riordan at 14-12, but scrum half Joji Takaki squeezed in a vital penalty, on the back of a Yoshitaka Yazaki try, which saw Japan match their 2018 predecessors in claiming a famous Dublin win.

Mark Butler’s charges will have the opportunity to bounce back in the second game of the series when the teams do battle again at the same venue on Sunday evening (kick-off 6pm).

It was evident before kick-off on Terenure College RFC’s all-weather pitch that the visitors brought with them plenty of pace and power, making for a physical encounter.

It took both teams a bit of time to settle into the game, as a mixture of nervous energy and a strong wind made for early handling errors.

It is worth mentioning that this Ireland Under-19 group have not been together for very long and due to the Schools Senior Cup campaigns only just finishing up, a few players were unavailable for selection.

Japan had the lion’s share of possession during the opening quarter, attempting to play at width from the off. Ireland did not have many clearcut early opportunities, but centre Tom Larke was a real ball-carrying threat.

Against the run of play, the Japanese opened the scoring, punishing Ireland for kicking the ball away. They got it to their left winger Tupou whose jet-heeled run early him an unconverted try in the left corner.

Butler’s youngsters mustered an almost immediate response. They worked their way into the red zone and a big carry from Josh Stevens edged them closer before Smyth accelerated through a small gap to score at the posts.

Following vice-captain Jack Murphy’s conversion, Japan managed to hit back and reclaim the lead before the interval. The most impressive aspect of the Japanese play was their ability to transition quickly from defence into attack.

They managed to steal the ball inside their own half before slicing through the middle of the pitch, with tighthead Moriyama impressively off a great move as he crashed in behind the posts. Scrum half Takaki’s conversion made it 12-7.

The Ireland U-19s burst out of the blocks in the second half, looking more dangerous on the ball. The back row of Mark Lee, Stevens and Richard Whelan increased their influence both individually and collectively.

It was a huge Whelan carry that set the wheels in motion for the home side’s second score. Charlie Sheridan also got motoring, finding his inside runner, O’Riordan, who scampered in for a great team try. The conversion was an simple one for Murphy.

Japanese teams are notorious for playing at speed and their High Schools outfit is no different. They had a confidence in playing the ball through the hands, and this was rewarded when lightning-quick full-back Yazaki sprinted through to score in the left corner with Takaki converting.

Shortly afterwards, Takaki tagged on a penalty to make it 22-14. A notable positive for Ireland was the impact of their bench. Jacob Sheehan, Tadhg Brophy and Graham all came on to good effect.

It was the talented Brophy who made the initial break before using his outside support, allowing Ballynahinch’s Graham to get over the whitewash. However, Japan managed to hold on for a well-judged 22-19 victory.

IRELAND U-19: David Colbert (Dublin University FC/Leinster); Stephen Kiely (Old Crescent RFC/Munster), Charlie Sheridan (Naas RFC/Leinster), Tom Larke (St. Columba’s College/Old Wesley RFC/Leinster), Oisin Pepper (St. Munchin’s College/Munster); Jack Murphy (Presentation College Bray/Leinster) (vice-capt), Jake O’Riordan (St. Munchin’s College/Munster); Ben Howard (St. Michael’s College/Leinster), Stephen Smyth (Kilkenny College/Leinster) (capt), Adam Deay (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), James O’Loughlin (Naas RFC/Leinster), James McKillop (Foyle College/Ulster), Mark Lee (Rainey Old Boys RFC/Ulster), Josh Stevens (Methodist College/Ulster), Richard Whelan (Cistercian College Roscrea/Leinster).

Replacements: Zac Solomon (Belfast Harlequins RFC/Ulster), Sean Hopkins (St. Muredach’s College/Ballina RFC/Connacht), Theo Bishop (Hartpury College/IQ Rugby), Luke O’Connor (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), Jacob Sheahan (UCC RFC/Munster), Tadhg Brophy (Newbridge College/Leinster), Sean Naughton (Kilkenny College/Leinster), Ben McFarlane (Methodist College/Ulster), Ethan Graham (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster).

JAPAN U-19: Yoshitaka Yazaki (Toin Gakuen High School); Tulimafua Tupou (Japan Aviation High School Ishikawa), Eroni Nabulagi (Oita Tomei High School), Shutaro Nishi (Higashi Fukuoka High School), Junnosuke Aoyagi (Kokugakuin University Tochigi High School); Ryunosuke Ito (Kokugakuin University Tochigi High School), Joji Takaki (Higashi Fukuoka High School); Sosuke Hiyama (Onomichi High School), Kenshin Shimizu (Kokugakuin University Kugayama High School), Tsubasa Moriyama (Kyoto Seisho High School), Chuka Ishibashi (Hotoku Gakuen High School), Yotaro Monobe (Chubu University Kasugaoka High School), Kanji Matsunuma (Tokai University Osaka Gyosei High School), Kotaro Okawa (Higashi Fukuoka High School) (capt), Tatsuya Fujii (Higashi Fukuoka High School).

Replacements: Yota Kimura (Kokugakuin University Tochigi High School), Sojiro Otsuka (Kwansei Gakuin High School), Takumi Yamaguchi (Ryutsu Keizai University Kashiwa High School), Kaisa Daunakamakama (Oita Tomei High School), Tomonosuke Shiromaru (Nagasaki Prefectural Nagasaki Hokuyodai High School), Keito Tanaka (Josho Gakuen High School), Rieto Ito (Hotoku Gakuen High School), Shusui Kamei (Nagasaki Prefectural Nagasaki Hokuyodai High School), Kento Iioka (Ryutsu Keizai University Kashiwa High School).