Four years after the “Miracle in Brighton,” Japan produced another memorable World Cup display to defeat Ireland in what’s being known as the “Sensation of Shizuoka.”
Going into the game Joe Schmidt’s men were ranked number two in the world and full of confidence following a comprehensive victory over the Scots. They were wary of the threat Japan posed, however, and decided to start with a very strong looking lineup, minus Johnny Sexton.
After a bright opening from Jamie Joseph’s side, the boys in green took the initiative scoring two tries but a series of Yu Tamura penalties kept the hosts in striking distance. By the end of the first period, it was the Irish hanging on and that pattern continued into the second half.
On 59 minutes, replacement Kenki Fukuoka dived over to give the home side the lead. Tamura then secured a memorable win with a penalty 13 minutes later. This was no lucky smash-and-grab. Japan thoroughly deserved the victory in what was arguably an even more impressive display than what we saw from them against South Africa in 2015.
“One miracle World Cup win could possibly be viewed as a glorious, courageous, once-in-a-lifetime triumph. But after Japan’s incredible victory over Ireland on Saturday the entire rugby world must take a serious look at how the Brave Blossoms are taking their game to new heights. We can all learn from them,” wrote former England World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward in the Daily Mail.
Six Tries for Samoa as Russia Run Out of Gas
Like the opening game against hosts Japan, Russia looked impressive in the first half against Samoa, but they tired badly after the break and in the end, it was a straightforward victory for the Pacific Islanders. Scoring six tries to secure a bonus point, the Samoans will be happy with how things turned out particularly after being down to 13 men at one stage as Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u were both sin-binned for high tackles on Vasily Artemyev.
They came through that period relatively unscathed and coach Steve Jackson was satisfied with the outcome, yet there’s still plenty for his players to work on before critical matches against Scotland, Japan and Ireland. As for the Bears, it was a disappointing second half, but they certainly haven’t disgraced themselves thus far in this tournament.
Uruguay Cause Huge Upset Before Being Humbled by Georgia
Quite a few people felt there might be a shock involving Fiji in this tournament, however, the general school of thought was that it would be the Pacific Islanders causing the upset rather than them being on the receiving end of one themselves.
Their pack was 74 kilograms heavier than Uruguay, yet the South American side still managed to compete upfront. It was an incredibly brave display from Los Teros, who were the only amateur team to appear at the 2015 World Cup.
They’ve worked incredibly hard since and now have 14 professionals. Their giant-killing act in front of the watching Crown Prince Akishino in the small Iwate town of Kamaishi was no fluke.
They played brilliantly but couldn’t repeat those heroics against Georgia who bounced back from a humbling defeat to Wales to earn a convincing bonus-point win over the Uruguayans. The Georgians play Fiji next before a potential group-decider against Australia.
Wales Edges Out Wallabies in Thriller
No doubt about the big game of the week in Pool D and it certainly lived up to its billing. Right from the off, the Australia-Wales encounter was played at a frantic pace with two of the strongest teams in the world throwing everything at each other.
It was the Welsh who came out of the blocks quicker, however, punishing the Wallabies’ mistakes to race into a deserved 23-8 lead at half-time thanks to tries by Hadleigh Parkes and the brilliant Gareth Davies.
The Aussies regrouped at the interval and fought their way back into the game with a terrific spell of rugby. Tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and captain Michael Hooper, plus a penalty from Matt Toomua, reduced the deficit to just one point.
It looked like Australia were in the ascendancy but a dogged Wales defence refused to relent. A third successful kick from replacement Rhys Patchell extended the European side’s lead and they managed to hold on to claim a famous 29-25 victory.
One-Sided Affair as England Easily Beats America
The U.S. football team caused one of the biggest shocks in sporting history when they defeated England at the 1950 World Cup, but a similar giant-killing in Kobe never looked on the cards from the moment George Ford went under the posts after six minutes.
Ford and Joe Cokanasiga were the star-turns for Eddie Jones’ men who put in a more accomplished display than they managed in the opener against Tonga. America scored a consolation try at the end to make it 45-7 to put some gloss on things, but this was a completely one-sided affair and if it hadn’t been for some of England’s handling errors, the margin of victory could have been much higher.
The game will also be remembered for John Quill’s horrible shoulder charge on Owen Farrell which led to the American flanker receiving his marching orders. He has since been sent home.
Pumas Power Past Tonga
Argentina bounced back from their heart-breaking defeat to France with a relatively straightforward win over Tonga. All of their tries came in the first half with hooker Julian Montoya grabbing an impressive hat-trick.
Santiago Carreras also went over to give the Pumas what could be an important bonus-point. The Tongan side fought bravely after the break, scoring the only try of the second period but the gap was too big.
They play France next while Argentina take on England at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium in what promises to be a mouthwatering encounter. Defeat for the side in blue and white and they are likely to be exiting at the group stage, a win and all of a sudden, Group C looks wide open.
Feature image: Photo by Clive Rose – World Rugby via Getty Images