Women’s Rugby World Cup: Ireland 24-14 Japan

Ireland’s Katie Fitzhenry and Sene Naoupu combine to tackle Iroha Nagata of Japan
Ireland v Japan
Ireland (0) 17
Tries: Miller, Fitzpatrick Cons: Stapleton 2 Pen: Stapleton
Japan (14) 14
Tries: penalty, Shimizu Con: penalty, Shimizu

Ireland staged a second-half comeback to survive a major scare and keep alive their hopes of making the Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-finals by beating Japan.

A penalty try and a score by full-back Mayu Shimizu helped underdogs Japan to a shock 14-0 half-time lead.

Two touchdowns by replacement Paula Fitzpatrick and one from Alison Miller saw Ireland bounce back, with Nora Stapleton kicking nine points.

Ireland’s game against France will decide the group winners on Thursday.

The hosts had edged Australia 19-17 in their opening pool match on Thursday, while France secured a bonus point as they thrashed Japan 72-14.

Coach Tom Tierney made seven changes to the Irish line-up in the hope of keeping many of his players fresh for the pivotal game against France in Dublin. That match will decide who comes out on top of the group after the French hammered Australia 48-0 in their second fixture on Sunday night.

Ireland are aiming to at least emulate their feat of three years ago when they managed to reach the semi-finals, before losing to eventual winners England, but only the three group winners and the best performing runners-up will make the last four.

With their side lying nine places above Japan in the world rankings and having seen off their opponents twice in warm-up games in June, Ireland supporters arrived at the UCD Bowl expecting their side to rack up as big a score as possible in preparation for the expected pool-winning shoot-out with France.

However, Japan dominated possession and territory in the first half as Ireland were outplayed in every facet of the game and were forced into a series of basic handling errors.

Full-back Mairead Coyne was fortunate to escape a yellow card for a high tackle before Japan were rewarded for…

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