Ireland shrugged off the absence of several senior personnel to edge out Japan 39-31 in a fluctuating summer Test as supporters returned to the Aviva Stadium for the first time in 17 months.
With seven of their contingent on British and Irish Lions duty and captain Johnny Sexton, plus Keith Earls and Cian Healy, rested, there was a fresh look to the hosts in their first meeting against Japan since the 2019 World Cup.
On that occasion, Japan pulled off an all-time shock in the pool stages and they threatened a repeat in Dublin, where around 3,000 spectators were in attendance at the venue for the first time since February last year.
It was a lacklustre and error-strewn first half from the Irish but they went in at the interval 19-17 ahead courtesy of tries from centre pairing Chris Farrell and Stuart McCloskey and tighthead prop Finlay Bealham.
Flanker Josh Van Der Flier and wing Jacob Stockdale went over after the break while Joey Carbery’s four conversions were followed by two penalties that ultimately took the wind out of the sails of Japan, whose tries came from Michael Leitch, Timothy Lafaele, Siosaia Fifita and Naoto Saito, with Yu Tamura adding 11 points with the boot.
While they led on several occasions, including a 24-19 advantage in the second half, Japan were ultimately left to reflect on a successive losses, having been beaten by Warren Gatland’s Lions 28-10 at Edinburgh last weekend.