Chris Wyatt, Yokohama, September 22nd, 2019
Another highly anticipated match and another disappointment as Ireland easily manhandle Scotland to take a bonus point victory with a 27-3 victory at International Stadium Yokohama in Rugby World Cup 2019. In what almost felt like a home match at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the thunderous roar of “Ireland, Ireland, together standing tall, shoulder to shoulder, we’ll answer Ireland’s call” as the Irish anthem was played gives notice yet again, it matters not where they play rugby, it is always a home game for the boys from the Emerald Isle. Heavily outnumbered by Irish, ex-Pat Irish and the many Japanese, Scotland supporters nonetheless put up a good effort to have their voices heard as well.
In the end, the four-try bonus point victory was an easy affair for Ireland who, much to the collective joy of the crowd, got a try from fan-favorite Rory Best. The game was never in doubt for Ireland. After the All Blacks – Springboks game the night before, this was the next most anticipated match in the pool stage. For Irish fans it was a banner night, one making some sheepish fans feel a little more comfortable with their number one World Rugby ranking. But for rugby fans, in general, this was a bit of a dud. At this point in the opening weekend of RWC2019, the two most interesting games have been Les Bleus’ win over the Pumas 23-21 after Argentina narrowly missed a penalty kick and the scrappy Welwitschias 47-22 loss to Italy. Both France and Italy had a little scare but escaped with wins.
Gregor Townsend and his staff will need to go back to the drawing board to sort out what went wrong last night. A loss is not the concern after all Ireland is the number one team in the world. However, Scotland never seemed in this game from the opening kickoff until the final hooter when everyone, including drenched fans, headed out of the stadium. The loss, while not catastrophic to Scotland’s chances to advance, left the team short players after several injuries and it also means they face the reality that they will need to defeat the Brave Blossoms to advance. For Japan in its game against Scotland enthusiasm may prove decisive, if not a thirst for revenge. Japan has not forgotten the 45-10 pasting Scotland put on them in Gloucester on the heels of their earthshattering 34-32 win over the Springboks. That loss kept the 3-1 Brave Blossoms out of the knockout stage. Revenge and a home-field advantage that will be impossible to calculate put the Scots at a huge disadvantage. That final pool stage game will be on October 13th in the 76,000 seat International Stadium Yokohama where Scotland fell last night. It may well prove to be the best pool stage match.
It is early yet with several teams still to play their opening matches. Nonetheless, both Ireland and England picked up bonus-point wins in their games, putting them at the top of their pools. In a moment of glory, Italy also finds itself at the top of their pool ahead other All Blacks after their bonus-point win over Namibia at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka. The weather finally made an impact in games on Sunday with heavy rain playing a part in Yokohama in the second half of Ireland’s big win. Despite the wet conditions, most supporters went home happy as well as wet. Up next for Ireland will be an excited crowd as they take on host Japan at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Saturday, September 28th. Scotland gets a bit of a rest with their second game not until Monday, September 30th in Kobe against Samoa.
Chris Wyatt is a guest journalist for DJCoil Rugby who is attending the 2019 Rugby World Cup. His periodic articles will provide another perspective for matches attended.