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Japan beat Ireland in huge Rugby World Cup shock as tournament hosts blow race for quarter-finals wide open

Japan 19-12 Ireland

Japan players (L) celebrate scoring a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images
Japan players (L) celebrate scoring a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images
Japan's wing Kenki Fukuoka (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's centre Garry Ringrose (C) is tackled by Japan's lock Luke Thompson (L) during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's lock Iain Henderson (L) runs as Japan's centre Ryoto Nakamura (2R) and Japan's lock Luke Thompson (R) go to tackle during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's centre Garry Ringrose (R) dives and scores a try as he is tackled by Japan's wing Lomano Lemeki during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's centre Garry Ringrose (R) dives and scores a try as he is tackled by Japan's wing Lomano Lemeki during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's centre Garry Ringrose scores a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's lock Iain Henderson (L) wins a line out challenged by Japan's flanker Kazuki Himeno during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images
FUKUROI, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 28: Rory Best of Ireland is seen prior to the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Japan and Ireland at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on September 28, 2019 in Fukuroi, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
FUKUROI, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 28: Viliami Lolohea of Tonga is pushed out during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Japan and Ireland at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on September 28, 2019 in Fukuroi, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Rory Best was one of the surprises in Joe Schmidt's starting XV as the 37-year-old starts again, just six days after playing 80 minutes against Scotland.
Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt takes part in a captain's run training session at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 27, 2019, on the eve of their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Japan. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's players arrive to take part in a captain's run training session at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 27, 2019, on the eve of their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Japan. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's players arrive to take part in a captain's run training session at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 27, 2019, on the eve of their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Japan. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Japan have pulled off the mother of all Rugby World Cup shocks by beating Ireland 19-12 at the Shizuoka Stadium to blow Pool A wide open.

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Game previews, plus expert insights and exclusive commentary from the Belfast Telegraph sports team.

Ireland had looked set to top the group after easing past their biggest rivals Scotland last week, heavily fancied to win the remainder of their matches with ease.

However, the tournament hosts dominated their opponents after going behind early on and produced a stunning second half display to run out deserved winners.

Japan, of course, edged South Africa 34-32 four years ago in the last World Cup but, in front of their home supporters, this is a victory that will take an extra-special place in Japanese sporting history.

The result leaves Japan top of the group with two wins from two and puts the Brave Blossoms right in the fight for a place in the quarter-finals.

Ireland, who picked up a losing bonus point, are three points behind and need Scotland to beat Japan in order to top the group and avoid a clash with New Zealand in the first knock-out game.

If the Scots do beat the hosts in the final pool game on October 13, it's likely that the three teams would have won three and lost one of their pool matches, putting progression to the last eight down to bonus points.

Two cheeky Jack Carty kicks had helped Ireland into the driving seat mid-way through the first half.

After Yu Tamura missed an early penalty opportunity to put Japan ahead, Carty kicked towards the corner, where Garry Ringrose climbed high to claim the ball, spin inside and touch down the opening try.

Carty then set up the second try at the end of concerted pressure. The Ireland out-half chipped the ball up and dashed forward to rise highest highest knock it down into the path of the on-rushing Rob Kearney, who managed to push his way over the line.

The score by then was 12-3 but, 20 minutes later, Ireland were just relieved to reach half-time ahead. The hosts piled on the pressure, camped in opposition territory for the final 10 minutes of the half, their rewards coming through two more Tamura penalties - the second an impressive kick from range.

When Carty's restart was long, Japan had the put-in on a halfway scrum as the gong sounded. Moving the ball impressively once again, Lomano Lemeki was inches from touching down in the corner, the grubber kick just not bouncing up enough for the winger to be able to claim it.

Japan's belief was growing and half-time didn't allow Ireland to reset as they would have hoped.

Rather the hosts were stronger than ever at the start of the second half and deservedly took the lead when replacement Kenki Fukuoka found space on the outside to run in. The hosts had been awarded a scrum inside the 22 when Chris Farrell ran into CJ Stander, causing an accidental offside. There was an air of inevitability, given the ease with which they had bullied Ireland's scrum a few minutes before, and when the pressure mounted, Japan worked the ball cross-field for Fukuoka to finish.

Tamura would add the extras and, after a period of convincing defence denied Ireland a sniff of a score, the fly-half converted a 72nd minute penalty to take his side seven clear.

Ireland were even close to being denied a vital losing bonus point as Fukuoka intercepted and led a late break, hauled down before he could reach the line.

Japan piled on the pressure and, when the hooter had gone, Carty booted the ball into touch, a nod to Japan's dominance and the important of bonus points in a new-look Pool A.

Ireland had been destined for top spot.

Now Japan and Scotland are right back in the mix.

Here's the game as it happened:

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