The Wolfhounds fell away in the second half as England Saxons emerged as 14-10 winners of a closely-fought ‘A’ international match at the Sportsground.
I had the pleasure of watching this match in the company of the parents of one of the Ireland and Ulster players and it sure does bring a different perspective to the game as every knock or slight mistake is felt 10 times over by the parents! Add to that the inconvenience that they were sharing the same guest house as some of the parents of the opposition players and these little jaunts become a weekend of winces and worries and biting of tongues!
As for the game, though far from a classic, it was an intense affair with Ireland unlucky not to secure the win after a strong first half performance. However the wind was behind them and the worry at the break was if Kevin McLaughlin’s try and Jacksons conversion and penalty, to give a 10 – 0 lead, would be enough.
The Saxons hit back early in the second half with two penalties from George Ford to take the score to 10 – 6 but Ireland looked to have done enough when Henderson stretched for the line with his first touch on the 63rd minute, unfortunately it was adjudged a double movement and the score was turned down.
Despite the Irish scrum improving immeasurably with the introduction of first Court and then Fitzpatrick the big English pack still managed to get on top and a break from Graham Kitchener led to a Will Fraser’s unconverted try in the right corner to put England 10 – 11 in front for the first time in the game.
The win was wrapped by a late penalty from Ford – his third of the match – with the Wolfhounds pinned back for the remaining five minutes and out of scoring range.
Final score Wolfhounds 10 Saxons 14.
Henshaw and Fitzgerald would have been my pick of the Ireland side though both mixed good with bad.
Of the Ulster players, Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson combined well in the first half though Jackson struggled with a knock for most of the second. Court and Fitzpatrick made some inroads into the Saxons scrum when they came on and Court worked hard in defence. Cave and Trimble struggled, by their own high standards, to get into the game with the ball kicked away with disappointing regularity by both sides. Henderson, after a brief, and nearly try scoring, cameo at 6 disappeared into the engine room once Ruddock came on for Stevenson.
Stevenson, himself, put in a very impressive shift catching both my eye and the attention of those around with his rugged play and enthusiasm. There a hard lot to impress down Galway way so he must have been doing something right!
Details from the IRFU.
TIME LINE: 2 minutes – Ireland Wolfhounds penalty: missed by Paddy Jackson – 0-0; 10 mins – Ireland Wolfhounds try: Kevin McLaughlin – 5-0; conversion: Paddy Jackson – 7-0; 27 mins – England Saxons penalty: missed by George Ford – 7-0; 32 mins – Ireland Wolfhounds penalty: Paddy Jackson – 10-0; Half-time – Ireland Wolfhounds 10 England Saxons 0; 50 mins – England Saxons penalty: George Ford – 10-3; 62 mins – England Saxons penalty: George Ford – 10-6; 67 mins – England Saxons try: Will Fraser – 10-11; conversion: missed by George Ford – 10-11; 75 mins – England Saxons penalty: George Ford – 10-14; Full-time – Ireland Wolfhounds 10 England Saxons 14
WOLFHOUNDS: Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht); Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), David McSharry (UCD/Connacht), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Paul Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster); David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster), Michael Bent (Dublin University/Leinster), Lewis Stevenson (Malone/Ulster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (St.Mary’s College/Leinster), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), James Coughlan (Dolphin/Munster) (capt).
Replacements used: Tom Court (Malone/Ulster) for Kilcoyne (half-time), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster) for Marshall (52), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Henshaw (58), Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster) for Sherry, Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) for McLaughlin (both 63), Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) for Stevenson (68), Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster) for McSharry (69), Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster) for Bent (70).
ENGLAND SAXONS: Elliot Daly (London Wasps); Christian Wade (London Wasps), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Tom Biggs (Bath); George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens); Nick Wood (Gloucester), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers), George Robson (Harlequins), George Kruis (Saracens), Will Fraser (Saracens), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers) (capt).
Replacements used: Joe Simpson (London Wasps) for Wigglesworth, Rob Buchanan (Harlequins) for Gray, Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers) for Kruis (all 60 mins), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors) for Wood (63), George Lowe (Harlequins) for Turner-Hall (68), Kieran Brookes (Leicester Tigers) for Doran-Jones (71), Kyle Eastmond (Bath) for Biggs (72). Not used: Jamie Gibson (London Irish).
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)