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McWilliams lauds Fryday’s leadership after Ireland’s comeback win

McWilliams lauds Fryday’s leadership after Ireland’s comeback win

Head coach Greg McWilliams heaped praise on Ireland captain Nichola Fryday as she led her side to a comeback 57-22 win over Japan in the first of their two-match series. 

Ireland fought back from 15-0 down 11 minutes into the encounter in Shizuoka to seal victory on their first-ever summer tour of Japan.

The dominant win comes nine months on from their narrow 15-12 defeat of the same opponent with McWilliams also celebrating the impact of the four starting debutants in the backline.

“I think as a management staff and a player group, we’ve got to be exceptionally proud,” he said. “The girls have put in a phenomenal amount of work since the Six Nations to try and make sure that we’re going to be the best we can be for this tour. 

“And Nichola has just been phenomenal as a leader and as a captain, I think that the whole country should be lucky to have her looking after the group of players.

“We gave young people an opportunity, and maybe people question it, now after that performance, you can see that there’s a special group that are forming.

“I think when we went down 15-0 at the very start very quickly, many teams could drop their head, but to show the composure that the group did shows their confidence in each other, their confidence in what we’re trying to do and I’m just very proud as a head coach.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Nichola, she’s phenomenal and she is a truly special captain.”

Komachi Imakugi went over for Japan’s second try inside the opening five minutes before Ayasa Otsuka converted a penalty to put the Cherry Blossoms further in front.

Two minutes later, Neve Jones got Ireland’s first points of the game with debutant Dannah O’Brien adding the extras.

Another player earning their first cap was involved in the second try as Meabh Deely worked well with Enya Breen to send the ball to Aoife Doyle who crossed to cut the gap to just three points.

Reflecting on their fightback, Fryday said: “We started slowly and we didn’t have much possession.

“We said coming into this match, if you give this Japanese team the ball they will play and they will execute their skill set which is extremely high. 

“And we just let them get in on top of us…And we regrouped and probably something that we probably haven’t shown that we can do in the past and then we started to execute a bit more as the time went on. 

“It probably wasn’t the best start for us or the one we would have wanted. But I think that it showed the character that we have within the group that we could make that switch then and start executing.”

On the stroke of half-time, Aoife Dalton earned her first try for Ireland to nudge the away side into a 19-15 lead at the break.

Ireland stretched their advantage with hooker Jones earning a hat-trick inside 53 minutes, with O’Brien converting the third of them.

Replacement Chloe Pearse won the race to chase down a clearing kick to extend Ireland’s advantage to 21 points, as McWilliams’ side scored twice more late on to complete Ireland’s biggest-ever comeback.