Ireland staged a second-half comeback to survive a major scare and keep their hopes of making the Women's Rugby World Cup semi-finals alive by beating Japan.
Ireland face France on Thursday in a game set to decide the Group C winners. Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary's College RFC/Leinster), 20.
"They're very fit, they like to move the ball wide and they are very quick to the breakdown".
There was close to a half an hour played by then but the problems deepened for Tom Tierney's side against an opposition that enjoyed far more possession and territory and one marshalled intelligently by out-half Minori Yamamoto whose tactical kicking was excellent.
A penalty try and a score by full-back Mayu Shimizu helped underdogs Japan to a shock 14-0 half-time lead.
Two Japenese tries in the first half had Ireland at a huge disadvantage going into the second half and things got worse for the Irish when Katie Fitzhenry was yellow carded for a high tackle.
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The race was now on to complete the turnaround and Stapleton's nerve held when she was presented with a penalty chance seven minutes from time. But that should take nothing away from an incredible Japanese display.
Fitzpatrick added her second touchdown from the final attack of the match, with Stapleton again on target - albeit off a post - to lend the scoreline an unexpected sheen. The remedial work required between here and the French game will be considerable.
Ireland Women's team to face Japan in Dublin on Sunday: M Coyne (Connacht), H Tyrrell, K Fitzhenry (both Leinster), S Naoupu (Harlequins), A Miller (Connacht), N Stapleton (Leinster), N Cronin (Munster), L Peat, C Moloney (both Leinster), C O'Connor (Connacht), C Cooney, S Spence (both Leinster), C Griffin (Munster), A Baxter (Ulster), C Molloy (Bristol, captain).
Replacements: L Lyons (Munster), R O'Reilly (Connacht), A Egan, P Fitzpatrick (both Leinster), A Caplice (Munster), L Muldoon (Ulster), J Deacon (Leinster), L Galvin (Munster).
Referee: I Tempest (England).