Ireland win the 11th place play off match and remain in the World Rugby U20 Championships for another season with a 39-33 victory over Japan in a pulsating affair.
Jonny Stewart, Dan Sheehan, Peter Sylvester and Tommy O’Brien grabbed the Irish tries while a double from Halatoa Vailea and Siosaia Fifita kept Japan in the match as it went down to the wire.
Ireland got off to a flying start when Stewart crossed for Ireland’s first try of the game inside five minutes. Sheehan added a second try off a lovely set play from the line out. Caelan Doris’ deft touch allowed the Irish hooker to barge over the Japanese defender and across the line. Ireland were dominant in the first ten minutes and signalled their intention to aggressively attack Japan with a high tempo offloading game.
Japan refused to roll over and right winger Vailea crossed for his side’s opening score shortly before the 20 minute mark. The try gave Japan momentum and came close to adding to their total and did so when a maul rumbled over the line. Rento Tsukayama emerging with the ball.
Harry Byrne nudged over a penalty to retake the lead for Ireland before inside centre, Sylvester barged over for Ireland’s third try seven minutes before the break. Ireland continued their positive rugby in the second half as Byrne extended the lead with three penalties in the first ten minutes.
Japan hit back trough Fifita who scored the try which gave Japan confidence heading into the final 20 minutes. The left winger added his second moments later as he benefited from a terrific line from Sioeli Vakalahi which distracted the Irish defenders. Vailea sored his second try with seven minutes left bringing the score to 34-33.
Tommy O’Brien crossed with three minutes left but an unsuccessful conversion kept Japan within reach. Nevertheless, Ireland dug deep in warm conditions and managed to win the turnover in the 82nd minute of the match.
Ireland breathe a sigh of relief as they remain in the competition for another year. It may have been a disappointing tournament culminating in an 11th placed finish, but Ireland can take credit from encouraging performances against France and South Africa in what was a very tough group.