Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said his side were “incredibly disappointed” after suffering a stunning 19-12 defeat by World Cup hosts Japan in Shizuoka.
Schmidt bemoaned the penalty count from referee Angus Gardner after his side lost a 12-3 lead as the hosts clinched a thoroughly deserved victory.
“Three or four of them [penalties] were for offsides that we felt were pretty tough,” Schmidt told ITV Sport.
“It just gave them the front foot and they didn’t button off.”
Australian referee Gardner took charge of Saturday’s match, and tries from Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney appeared to have the Irish in control as they led 12-3 after 21 minutes. But amazingly, the world’s second-ranked side were held scoreless for the remainder of the contest.
“We’re incredibly disappointed that we didn’t manage to control the end of the game but they are a tremendous side,” added the Ireland coach.
“Congratulations to Japan. What a furious, intense effort it was. We knew it was potentially coming.”
Ireland captain Rory Best denied that the Irish had been caught unawares by the Japan onslaught.
“We knew how tough it was going to be. Anyone who is utterly shocked hasn’t seen how good they were,” Best told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“We had a game plan and were prepared. We made a few mistakes and were on the wrong side of the penalty count.
“But Japan played really well and posed us a lot of questions. Unfortunately we couldn’t come up with the right answers.”
Best admitted that the lively Japanese display left the Irish “chasing shadows”.
“When you play the host team it’s always tough. We didn’t start how we wanted and we let them play.
“You have to give credit to Japan – they attacked us minute after minute. We have to dust ourselves down and get better.”