- Ireland 24 – 14 Japan
Women’s Rugby World Cup hosts Ireland have pulled off a dramatic late victory over Japan to make it two wins from two.
The final scoreline of 24-14 hints at a sense of breathing space that never existed until the closing seconds, with Ireland having been 14-0 down at half-time, two points behind with a quarter-of-an-hour to play, and level until the 73rd minute.
As it was, a late flurry of forward momentum carried them over the line at Dublin’s UCD Bowl.
Paula Fitzpatrick scored a pair of late tries and Nora Stapleton belied any nerves to put her side ahead late on from the kicking tee.
After beating Australia by two points in their opening fixture, Ireland still made changes.
Two of the try-scorers from that game, Sophie Spence and Ciara Griffin, were drafted into the starting side and Nicole Cronin was handed a Test debut.
But it was Japan who made the early running, winning a series of penalties and eventually earning a penalty try after pushing their opponents hard in the scrum.
Ireland were struggling for fluency and, having failed to put together any scoring moves, found themselves on the wrong end of a second try just before half-time.
Mayu Shimzu was the scorer, receiving the ball wide on the right and breaking a couple of challenges to burrow over before adding the conversion herself.
The half-time scoreline left a major shock on the cards, but Ireland were able to rally despite Katie Fitzhenry’s yellow card soon after the restart.
Three minutes after the Fitzhenry was sent to the sin-bin, Alison Miller finally punctured a hole in the Japanese defence to grab Ireland’s first try of the evening.
Stapleton slotted the extras to halve the lead and substitute Fitzpatrick helped remove it entirely in the 64th minute, finishing a rolling maul before another successful conversion.
The race was now on to complete the turnaround and Stapleton’s nerve held when she was presented with a penalty chance seven minutes from time.
Fitzpatrick added her second touchdown from the final attack of the match, with Stapleton again on target - albeit off a post - to lend the scoreline an unexpected sheen.