Ireland U20’s got their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start with a hard fought win over Italy in Parma. Two second half tries by Dungannon’s Craig Gilroy put a gloss on the final score as the Ireland side struggled for large periods of the game.
Italy (9) 9
PEN: Marco Gennari
Ireland (11) 28
TRY: James Tracy, Craig Gilroy (2)
CON: Paddy Jackson (2)
PEN: Paddy Jackson (3)
The first half was a scrappy affair with both sides struggling to find consistency. Ireland’s game plan took an early knock when No. 8 Eoin McKeon departed early through injury. Queen’s Iain Henderson took the field slotting in at second row with Michael Kearney moving to wing forward and Jordi Murphy slipping back to 8.
Italy enjoyed the bulk of possession in the first half with the Irish side allowing the home side to come on to them. Despite being a bit “soft” in the tackle, frequently coughing up an extra couple of yards, the Irish defence was well enough organised to cope with any attacking threat that the Italians had to offer.
With both defences on top the opening half hour was a battle of the kickers and, despite having an off day with the boot, Ireland’s Patrick Jackson did enough to keep Ireland level with the hosts with the score reading 6 – 6 at the half hour mark.
Ireland eventually managed to string some phases together with Luke Marshall prominent and Iain Henderson featuring strongly around the fringes and after some good work by Niall Annett the ball was fed inside for Andrew Boyle who beat the defence and passed to James Tracy for the prop to sprint over from close range.
Jackson missed the conversion and the Italians managed to stay in the hunt with another penalty shortly before the break taking the half time score to 9 – 11.
Jackson’s problems with the boot continued at the start of the second half as he pushed another penalty wide but after some shocking use of the boot by an Italian centre to the face of Kearney Ireland finally raised their game. Jackson slotted over a penalty for offside taking the score to 9 – 14 and shortly after some good work by Marshall sent Brendan Macken clear. The big centre took the ball on some distance before shipping to Murphy in support who found Gilroy, powering through at pace, to score under the posts. Jackson converted taking the score to 9 – 21 and Ireland had some breathing space.
Ireland continued to play at a higher tempo and kept the pressure on the hosts and three minutes later Gilroy spotted a gap in the Italian 22 to blast through a couple of tackles for his second try. Jackson added the extras and Ireland looked comfortable at 9 – 28.
Italy pushed hard for a try of their own for the remainder of the game but despite finishing the game with only 13 men, Kearney and Murphy being yellow carded in an extended injury time, Ireland managed to keep them out with the game ending Italy 9 Ireland 28.
IRELAND U20: Craig Gilroy, Andrew Conway, Alex Kelly, Luke Marshall, Andrew Boyle, Patrick Jackson, Blane McIlroy, James Tracy, Niall Annett, Martin Moore, Michael Kearney, Daniel Qualter, Jordi Murphy, Aaron Conneely, Eoin McKeon. Replacements: Iain Henderson, Conor Carey, David Doyle, Brendan Macken, Finlay Bealham, Peter du Toit, Cathal Marsh.