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Future Looks Bright As Ireland Start Historic Series With A Bang
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Future Looks Bright As Ireland Start Historic Series With A Bang

Future Looks Bright As Ireland Start Historic Series With A Bang

Taryn Schutzler, Dannah O'Brien, Méabh Deely, Natasja Behan, Aoife Dalton and Leah Tarpey enjoyed debuts with the Ireland Women in Shizuoka ©INPHO/Akito Iwamoto

The Ireland Women, sponsored by Aon, produced a thrilling comeback as they outscored Japan by 50 points over the closing 65 minutes to win the series opener in Shizuoka in convincing fashion.

2022 SUMMER TOUR FIRST TEST: Saturday, August 20

JAPAN WOMEN 22 IRELAND WOMEN 57, Ecopa Stadium, Fukuroi City, Shizuoka
Scorers: Japan: Tries: Misaki Suzuki, Komachi Imakugi, Makoto Lavemai; Cons: Ayasa Otsuka 2; Pen: Ayasa Otsuka
Ireland: Tries: Neve Jones 3, Aoife Doyle, Aoife Dalton, Méabh Deely, Chloe Pearse, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Emma Hooban; Cons: Dannah O’Brien 6
HT: Japan 15 Ireland 19

Japan 22 Ireland 57 – First Test: As It Happened

Match Photo Gallery: Japan 22 Ireland 57

Rugby World Cup-bound Japan took their chances early on, with Misaki Suzuki and Komachi Imakugi both crossing to establish a 15-0 lead, but Greg McWilliams’ experimental Ireland team gradually took control.

Neve Jones, who went on to score a hat-trick of tries, Aoife Doyle and new cap Aoife Dalton replied with scores, the latter one set up and converted by impressive out-half Dannah O’Brien on her debut.

With Ireland’s strong set-piece game showing the work done under specialist coaches John McKee and Denis Fogarty, the maul propelled hooker Jones over on two more occasions as 19-15 quickly became 31-15.

Flying full-back Méabh Deely helped herself to a memorable debut try, before the Japanese briefly broke up the Irish momentum with an effort from close range by replacement Makoto Lavemai.

Nonetheless, with some determined performances off the bench, Ireland made sure to finish the first Test on their own terms and take their handsome try haul to nine.

18-year-old talent O’Brien finished with a dozen points from the tee, with replacements Chloe Pearse, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, who ran in a fine individual effort, and Emma Hooban all touching down during a late flurry.

Natasja Behan, Leah Tarpey and Taryn Schutzler made it six debuts on a night that saw the Ireland Women score their most points and tries since beating Scotland 73-3 to win the 2015 Six Nations title.

Jones, who continued her excellent form from the Six Nations earlier this year, became only the fourth Irish woman to score a hat-trick of tries at Test level, after Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller (3) and Sophie Spence.

The sides will meet again at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium next Saturday (kick-off 7pm local time/11am Irish time), when McWilliams’ charges will aim to clinch the series against the Sakura Fifteen.

As good as Ireland’s scrum and lineout were during this opening game, they provided the launchpad for Japan’s whirlwind start. Lesley McKenzie’s side exploited defensive gaps and showed the benefit of their recent matches together.

A nice move off a scrum led to busy flanker Kyoko Hosokawa carrying up towards the posts, and quick recycling allowed blindside Suzuki to score from a ruck just under the Irish posts. Ayasa Otsuka converted.

Even better followed for the hosts when a sweeping move from a lineout, out to the left, saw young winger Imakugi released for the try-line and a chasing Grace Moore was unable to deny her.

Japan threatened a third try before Otsuka knocked over a simple penalty, but Ireland got a grip on proceedings towards the end of the first quarter as captain Nichola Fryday led by example.

Tullow starlet O’Brien launched a penalty into the Japanese 22 and the forwards took over, Jones connecting with Fryday at the lineout and the well-organised drive delivered a try for the Ballymena native.

The left-footed O’Brien converted for her first international points, before strong-running centre Enya Breen, who had arguably her best game ever in the green jersey, spearheaded a superb break for try number two.

She dummied, arrowed through a gap and then linked with the pacy Deely who continued the move and it was her well-timed pass out of a tackle that put winger Doyle over near the left corner.

Number 8 Hannah O’Connor missed a long range penalty on the half-hour mark as Ireland looked to draw level on the scoreboard, but they redoubled their efforts just before the break.

After pressurising Japan into a lineout error, direct carrying from Linda Djougang, combined with a Breen turnover and a subsequent penalty, landed Ireland back within scoring range.

The resulting lineout did not go to plan, but Breen, Katie O’Dwyer and Fryday all made metres before O’Brien’s well-timed pass put 19-year-old centre Dalton powering through a tackle to give her side a four-point lead.

Openside Edel McMahon forced a penalty at the breakdown just after the restart, and Ireland took just 69 seconds to kick off the second half’s scoring. Jones connected with Fryday in the air before the lineout drive pocketed five more points.

Lovely hands from the backs had Ireland building promisingly from halfway again, although a penalty against McMahon allowed Japan to counter sharply before another handling error let them down.

Japan’s indiscipline, on the back of a defence-splintering run from Breen, gave the Ireland pack a sniff of the try-line once more, and Jones gobbled up another five-pointer from the maul. O’Brien converted crisply for a 31-15 lead.

Christy Haney made an immediate impact off the bench, winning a scrum penalty and then helping Jones to crash over for her third score of the night.

The midfield axis then combined to set Deely free from just inside the Japanese half. Dalton’s decoy run interested defenders and Breen’s inviting pass put the Ballinasloe youngster in between two defenders and there was no catching her.

Japan pulled the deficit back to 38-22 early in the final quarter, lifting the tempo and using a quickly-taken penalty to send replacement Lavemai barging in under the posts.

Unfortunately, the freshly-introduced Nicole Cronin injured herself in attempting to stop her and had to go off after suffering a clash of heads with Fryday. The versatile Scuffil-McCabe shifted to scrum half.

Djougang and ever-influential lock Sam Monaghan both managed to charge down kicks, the latter one allowing the alert Pearse to dot down the loose ball with 68 minutes on the clock.

The tries kept coming, Scuffil-McCabe spotting her chance to break from a ruck on the Japanese 10-metre line and her strength and speed ensured the grounding was good. O’Brien’s conversion took Ireland to 50 points.

With Monaghan hobbling off, Dorothy Wall switched to the second row and Tarpey came in to pack down on the flank. A pinpoint cross-field kick from O’Brien was brilliantly gathered on the bounce by Behan to keep Ireland on the front foot.

Breen missed out on a try that her performance deserved, just losing control of the ball close to the line, but the forwards added the icing on the cake.

Moore, who used her athleticism well in the loose, Pearse and McMahon all had a cut via a close-in scrum before Hooban reached out to score with little over a minute remaining.

Despite the ball falling off the tee as the clock went into the red, O’Brien showed a coolness beyond her tender years by drop-kicking her sixth successful conversion through the posts.

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Japan try: Misaki Suzuki – 5-0; conversion: Ayasa Otsuka – 7-0; 5 mins – Japan try: Komachi Imakugi – 12-0; conversion: missed by Ayasa Otsuka – 12-0; 11 mins – Japan penalty: Ayasa Otsuka – 15-0; 16 mins – Ireland try: Neve Jones – 15-5; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 15-7; 22 mins – Ireland try: Aoife Doyle – 15-12; conversion: missed by Dannah O’Brien – 15-12; 29 mins – Ireland penalty: missed by Hannah O’Connor – 15-12; 40+1 mins – Ireland try: Aoife Dalton – 15-17; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 15-19; Half-time – Japan 15 Ireland 19; 41 mins – Ireland try: Neve Jones – 15-24; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 15-24; 53 mins – Ireland try: Neve Jones – 15-29; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 15-31; 56 mins – Ireland try: Méabh Deely – 15-36; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 15-38; 62 mins – Japan try: Makoto Lavemai – 20-38; conversion: Ayasa Otsuka – 22-38; 68 mins – Ireland try: Chloe Pearse – 22-43; conversion: missed by Dannah O’Brien – 22-43; 71 mins – Ireland try: Molly Scuffil-McCabe – 22-48; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 22-50; 78 mins – Ireland try: Emma Hooban – 22-55; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 22-57; 79 mins – Japan yellow card: Kie Tamai; Full-time – Japan 22 Ireland 57

Referee: Lauren Jenner (New Zealand)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Ria Anoku (Mie Pearls); Riho Kurogi (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Rinka Matsuda (Nippon Sport Science University), Shione Nakayama (Yokogawa Musashino Artemi-Stars), Komachi Imakugi (Arukas Queen Kumagaya/Rissho University); Ayasa Otsuka (RKU Grace), Moe Tsukui (Yokogawa Musashino Artemi-Stars); Saki Minami (Yokogawa Musashino Artemi-Stars) (capt), Nijiho Nagata (International Budo University), Yuka Sadaka (Hirosaki Sakura Ovals), Kie Tamai (Mie Pearls), Maki Takano (Yokogawa Musashino Artemi-Stars), Misaki Suzuki (Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix), Kyoko Hosokawa (Mie Pearls), Ayano Nagai (Yokohama TKM). Replacements used: Makoto Lavemai (Yokogawa Musashino Artemi-Stars) for Sadaka (half-time), Seina Saito (Mie Pearls) for Nagai (49 mins), Hinata Komaki (Nippon Sport Science University) for Minami, Megumi Abe (Arukas Queen Kumagaya) for Tsukui (both 59), Minori Yamamato (Mie Pearls) for Nakayama (61), Masami Kawamura (RKU Grace) for Hosokawa (65), Kotomi Taniguchi (Mie Pearls) for Nagata (67), Sakurako Korai (Nippon Sport Science University) for Takano (72).

Away Team

Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht); Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Tullamore RFC/Leinster), Enya Breen (TBC/Munster), Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC/Munster); Dannah O'Brien (Tullow RFC/Leinster), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster); Linda Djougang (TBC/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster), Katie O'Dwyer (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht) (capt), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster), Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby), Hannah O'Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster).
Replacements used: Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby) for McMahon (3-11 mins, blood sub), Christy Haney for O'Dwyer, Moore for O'Connor (both 51), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Hughes, Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for Doyle (both 61), Leah Tarpey (Tullamore RFC/Leinster) for Cronin (64), Emma Hooban (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for Jones, Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Djougang (both 66), Taryn Schutzler (Saracens/Ulster) for Fryday (72).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Misaki Suzuki, Komachi Imakugi, Makoto Lavemai; Cons: Ayasa Otsuka 2; Pen: Ayasa Otsuka

Away Team

Tries: Neve Jones 3, Aoife Doyle, Aoife Dalton, Méabh Deely, Chloe Pearse, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Emma Hooban; Cons: Dannah O'Brien 6