Rugby World Cup comes alive as hosts Japan shock Ireland

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Japan's players celebrate after winning over Ireland during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa between Japan and Ireland in Shizuoka, Japan, Saturday. (AP)
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Japan's flanker Kazuki Himeno celebrates after winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on Saturday. (AFP)
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Japan's Kenki Fukuoka runs past Ireland's defense during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa between Japan and Ireland in Shizuoka, Japan, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 28 September 2019

Rugby World Cup comes alive as hosts Japan shock Ireland

  • Brave Blossoms added the “Shizuoka Shock” to the “Brighton Miracle” after toppling South Africa at the 2015 tournament
  • Japan coach Jamie Joseph insisted the giant-slaying result had not come as a surprise

Shizuoka, JAPAN: Kenki Fukuoka struck the killer blow as hosts Japan stunned Ireland 19-12 on Saturday to take a giant step toward a first Rugby World Cup quarter-final spot.
The replacement winger wriggled over on the hour mark to score the winning try of a frenetic Pool A clash as the Brave Blossoms added the “Shizuoka Shock” to the “Brighton Miracle” after toppling South Africa at the 2015 tournament.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph insisted the result had not come as a surprise.
“You don’t want to come across too arrogant and cocky,” said the ex-All Black.
“We’d been preparing for this game for a hell of a lot longer than they had,” added Joseph.
“We were preparing for three years and Ireland probably since Monday, so we felt like had an advantage. The boys will have a couple of beers tonight.”
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, meanwhile, denied that his side had underestimated Japan.
“It’s a tough defeat for us to take,” he admitted. “But I’d like to congratulate Japan for the energy, intensity and skill they brought to the game.
“Japan didn’t exceed my expectations — I expected them to be as good as they were. They play a quality game and they’re very difficult to contain.”
Ireland, who thrashed Scotland 27-3 in their opening game, had looked in control after first-half tries from Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney.
But they went off the boil as Japan grew into the match, roared on by a partisan crowd of 47,000.
A late inclusion on the bench, Fukuoka made the difference, darting over on the overlap to complete a stunning team try and put the home side in front.
Incredibly, they stayed there, leaving Ireland’s players slumped on the turf in disbelief.
Kotaro Matsushima, hat-trick hero of Japan’s 30-10 win over Russia in last week’s tournament curtain raiser, posed an early threat on as Japan edged a cagey opening.
Fly-half Yu Tamura fluffed a makeable penalty, before Ireland took the lead after 13 minutes when the rampaging Ringrose rose brilliantly to snaffle Jack Carty’s hanging kick into the corner.
Carty, stepping in for Ireland’s talismanic playmaker Johnny Sexton, produced another moment of magic seven minutes later, dinking a clever chip that he managed to tip back to full-back Kearney to crash over.
Japan refused to buckle, however, and Tamura kept them in it with three clutch penalties.
Regular captain Michael Leitch’s introduction after half an hour provided an instant impact, but Ireland survived to go into halftime up 12-9.
Tamura missed a three-pointer 14 minutes after the interval that would have tied the game.
But Japan’s swarming pressure soon told, Fukuoka showing superb footwork to sneak over and give Japan the lead, triggering deafening cheers at Ecopa stadium.
Another Tamura penalty extended Japan’s advantage to 19-12 with eight minutes remaining before Fukuoka effectively sealed the result with another tremendous burst that kept the ball in Irish territory until the final gong.
“Anyone that is utterly shocked hasn’t seen how good they are,” said Ireland captain Rory Best.
“We were on the wrong side of the penalty count, but Japan posed a lot of questions to us and unfortunately we couldn’t come up with the right answers.”
Ireland, who came into the tournament as the world’s top-ranked team but have never won a World Cup knockout match, will look to bounce back against Russia.
Japan know they still have no margin for error with games against Samoa and Scotland to come.
“That was a massive effort,” said game captain Pieter Labuschagne.
“It took a special effort but we had massive belief that we could do something different tonight.”


Liverpool cleared to win Premier League at Anfield

Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente scores a goal against Liverpool during their match in London. The Reds will play against Everton on June 21. (Reuters/File)
Updated 06 June 2020

Liverpool cleared to win Premier League at Anfield

  • All remaining 92 Premier League games this season will be played behind closed doors, but there are fears that hosting the game in Liverpool could encourage supporters to congregate around stadiums

LONDON: Premier League leaders Liverpool could claim a first title for 30 years at Anfield after the initial batch of fixtures of the restart was announced on Friday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men, with a commanding 25-point lead at the top of the table, were just two wins away from clinching the title before coronavirus forced the suspension of football in March.
Liverpool’s first match back is against Everton on June 21. The Merseyside derby is due to take place at Goodison Park, less than a mile from Anfield, but a venue has not been confirmed by the Premier League. Crystal Palace will then visit Anfield three days later.
Wins in both of those matches would guarantee Liverpool’s first English top-flight title since 1990. But if Manchester City lose at home to Arsenal on June 17, the Reds would be champions if they beat Everton.
Liverpool City Council’s safety advisory group will meet next week to make a decision on whether the game can go ahead at Goodison or should be moved to a neutral venue.
All remaining 92 Premier League games this season will be played behind closed doors, but there are fears that hosting the game in Liverpool could encourage supporters to congregate around stadiums.

SPEEDREAD

Liverpool’s first match back is against Everton on June 21. The Merseyside derby is due to take place at Goodison Park, less than a mile from Anfield, but a venue has not been confirmed by the Premier League. Crystal Palace will then visit Anfield three days later.

The only other match that could be moved to a neutral venue from the first three rounds of fixtures is Liverpool’s visit to City on July 2.
The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, voiced fears that “there would be many thousands of people who would turn up outside Anfield” on the day Liverpool’s long wait for a league title was ended.
That has been disputed by the club, who said they have engaged with supporters’ groups to make sure social-distancing guidelines are followed.
Aston Villa will host Sheffield United in the first match of “Project Restart,” followed by Arsenal’s trip to City on June 17.
Manchester United’s visit to Tottenham will spearhead the first full round of matches spread over four days from June 19 to 22.
Premier League CEO Richard Masters said: “We know it won’t be the same without our loyal supporters in stadiums but, together with our broadcast partners, we are able to ensure fans can watch or listen to each match live from home.”