Ireland will now need two wins with bonus points in each of their next two Rugby World Cup matches (against Russia and Samoa) to be assured of a place in the quarter-finals. The opposition in that quarter-final will almost certainly be two-time defending world champions New Zealand.
And it could have been worse for Ireland today, with Joe Schmidt’s side holding on for a 19-12 losing bonus point defeat with Keith Earls making up huge ground to make a last gasp try saving tackle with four minutes to play.
The Brave Blossoms came from behind at Shizuoka Stadium with Kenki Fukuoka’s second-half try and Yu Tamura’s boot beating a side recently ranked number one in the world in a shock to match their victory over twice world champions South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.
While they stunned world rugby then, to win this time in front of an uproarious home crowd with so much focus on Asia’s first World Cup was arguably more significant.
“You’ve just got be careful before the game, you don’t want to come across arrogant or cocky but we had a lot of belief in our gameplan, we knew what we wanted to do. We knew how strong Ireland were,” coach Jamie Joseph said in a pitchside interview.
“We’re obviously ecstatic about the result. We’re really proud of the players… We’ve got another couple of games to go but we’ll enjoy tonight I reckon.”
The hosts, who had never beaten Ireland before, were utterly worthy winners and, having admitted that their nerves got the better of them in the 30-10 curtain-raising win over Russia, there was no repeat eight days later.