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

Action from UCD Bowl
Ireland's Katie Fitzhenry and Sene Naoupu combine to tackle Iroha Nagata of Japan
Ireland v Japan
Ireland (0) 24
Tries: Miller, Fitzpatrick 2 Cons: Stapleton 3 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 their superiority with a 27th-minute try.

Referee Ian Tempest awarded a penalty try after the hosts were penalised for collapsing the scrum following a drive by the Japanese forwards from a five-metre scrum.

Shimizu wrong-footed the Irish defence and dived over three minutes before the interval, then added the extra points to increase her side's advantage.

Ireland's Ailis Egan attempts to break through a tackle by Mayu Shimizu
Ireland's Ailis Egan attempts to break through a tackle by Mayu Shimizu

Ireland's woes were compounded soon after the resumption when Katie Fitzhenry paid the price for repeated Irish high tackles by receiving a yellow card.

Despite being a player down, the momentum soon swung in favour of Ireland, inspired by their hard-working forwards.

Winger Miller went over in the 45th minute, with Stapleton converting to half their side's deficit, then Fitzpatrick dotted down after Ireland set up a rolling maul from a lineout, the hosts' fly-half again kicking the additional points.

Spurred on by a vociferous home crowd, Ireland began to pile on the pressure in search of victory and after putting together 19 phases of play, Japan were punished for an infringement by a Stapleton penalty.

Fitzpatrick ploughed over from close range for her second in the final play of the game, with Stapleton's conversion ensuring a 10-point winning margin for the resilient but relieved Irish.

"The courage that we showed on Wednesday to beat Australia came through again. We showed resilience and managed to get the result," said Ireland captain Claire Molloy.

"We have a lot to work on. We were very unhappy with our handling and with the breakdown so we need to fix that."

Ireland: M Coyne; H Tyrrell, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, N Cronin; L Peat, C Moloney, C O'Connor; C Cooney, S Spence; C Griffin, A Baxter, C Molloy.

Replacements: L Lyons, R O'Reilly, A Egan, P Fitzpatrick, A Caplice, L Muldoon, J Deacon, L Galvin.

Japan: M Shimizu; E Hirano, I Nagata, R Kurogi, H Tsutsumi; M Yamamoto, M Tsukui; M Ebuchi, S Saito, S Minami, A Mimura, A Sakurai, Y Sue, S Suzuki , M Takano.

Replacements: M Suzuki, M Kataoka, M Fujimoto, A Nakajima, Y Shiozaki, Y Noda, A Suzuki, AI Tasaka.

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)

Ireland's Pool C fixtures
All matches at UCD Bowl, Dublin
Wednesday, 9 AugustAustraliaIreland won 19-17
Sunday, 13 AugustJapanIreland won 24-14
Thursday, 17 AugustFrance19:45

Commentary on Ireland's pool matches will be on the BBC Sport website

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