Ireland 39-31 Japan, Aviva Stadium
Ireland managed to overcome resistance from Japan as they kick-started their summer series with a 39-31 win at Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The game saw fans return to Aviva Stadium for the first time since February 2020 with an attendance of 3,000 as it was a rematch of World Cup encounter in 2019 between the two sides which saw the Brave Blossoms register a 19-12 win.
Ireland had seven players involved in the British and Irish Lions camp while Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls and Cian Healy were rested for the summer series.
James Ryan, who overcame his injury went on to lead Ireland but it was Japan, who got their first points in the game with Yu Tamura kicking a fourth penalty goal to take the visitors to a 0-3 lead.
Ireland's response came in the ninth minute when Chris Farrell seizing on an inside pass from Caelan Doris to touchdown and Joey Carbery on his first game since the 2019 World Cup kicked the conversion making it 7-3. The visitors seized the lead back in the 11th minute when skipper Michael Leitch touched down over from a line-out maul and Tamura's conversion made it 7-10.
Japan thought they extended their lead further but Timothy Lafaele's try was turned down after a pass from Tamura was adjudged forward. Nevertheless, Ireland got their momentum back with Peter O'Mahony's one hand offload allowed Stuart McCloskey to dot down. As the break was approaching, Timothy Lafaele and Finlay Bealham exchanged tries as the opening half ended with a 19-17 lead for the hosts.
Japan made a head start to the second half with Siosaia Fifita seizing on a grubber kick from Tamura to score three minutes into the second half and the fly-half's conversion made the scoreline 19-24.
However, Andy Farrell's men clawed their way back when Josh Van Der Flier powered his way over in the 49th minute and three minutes later it was the turn of Jacob Stockdale after Jamison Gibson-Park laid the ground work. Carbery kicked both the conversions as Ireland extended their lead to 33-24.
Even though Naoto Saito's try helped Japan narrow down the gap to two points, they could not find any further breakthrough in the final quarter during which Carbery kicked two penalties to help Ireland complete a 39-31 win. Ireland will next face the USA next weekend with 6,000 fans set to attend the game.
Team line up:
Ireland: Keenan; Stockdale, Farrell, McCloskey, Larmour; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Kilcoyne, Kelleher, Bealham, James Ryan, Dillane, O'Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.
Reserves: Herring, E Byrne, Jo Ryan, Baird, Coombes, Casey, Burns, Daly.
Japan: Matsushima; Masirewa, Lafaele, Nakamura, Fifita; Tamura, Saito; Inagaki, Sakate, Koo, Van der Walt, Moore, Leitch, Labuschagne, Himeno.
Reserves: Horikoshi, Millar, Ai Valu, Cornelsen, Tatafu, Shigeno, Matsuda, Gates.