Ireland (13) 13
TRY: Peter Claffey, James Ryan. PEN: Johnny McPhillips.
Ireland U20’s recorded their second loss of this season’s Six Nations Tournament going down 34 – 13 to France in Narbonne after an entertaining first half.
Peter Claffey and James Ryan both bagged a try and Johnny McPhillips knocked over a penalty, in a first half that that saw Ireland in control for long periods, but a late effort from France’s Gabriel N’Gandebe to add to an earlier penalty try, both converted, and an Anthony Belleau penalty gave the hosts an unexpected 17 – 13 lead at the break.
France pulled away somewhat in the second half, recording seventeen unanswered points, through two tries from Florian Verhaegue, with Belleau again converting both as well as adding his second penalty.
Fair play to France, who turned up the power in the second half and found Ireland wanting, but, as with the game against the Welsh, Ireland did bring a lot of their troubles on themselves while they where still well in the hunt.
Ireland went ahead through a McPhillips long range penalty in the 7th minute and they really should have had more points on the board before Belleau evened things up with a penalty of his own fifteen minutes later, Ireland having butchered a few chances in-between.
France did look dangerous, with pace in the centre and out wide, but both teams struggled to maintain possession past a few phases in slippery conditions.
The visitors eventually got their breakthrough on the 27th minute when the impressive Ryan broke of the back of a maul to be held up close to the French line. His second row partner, Claffey, was on hand to pick up and go over for an unconverted try.
Ireland’s try sparked the French into action and a powerful run from Cancoriet looked to be enough to send zippy winger N’Gandebe over. Ireland’s Ryan looked to have saved the day, holding the winger up over the line, but it was only a temporary respite as France applied the power at the resulting scrum to be awarded a penalty try. Belleau converted and France led 10 – 8 after 30 minutes.
The first half ended in some style as Ryan went over for Ireland’s second try minutes later. Again it came from a driving maul, and again McPhillips narrowly missed the difficult conversion, but Ireland would have been happy to take three point lead into the break.
Unfortunately, for Ireland, it wasn’t to be. The Irish youngsters looked to have weathered the French storm but messed up a chance to clear, a missed pass bounced into the hands of N’Gandabe and there was no mistake this time as the winger dived over unopposed. Belleau again converted and it was France who took a four point lead into the break.
The second half was hard to watch as Ireland tired dramatically and the French second row Florian Verhaegue ran wild appearing to be at the heart of everything good in the hosts play.
The big second row bagged his brace either side of he hour mark and with Belleau converting both, to add to a second half penalty, the hosts cruised home with something to spare.
Final score: France U20 34 Ireland U20 13.
Ireland U20: Hugo Keenan, Matthew Byrne, Shane Daly, Jimmy O’Brien, Conor O’Brien, Johnny McPhillips, John Poland, Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney, Conor Kenny, Peter Claffey, James Ryan, Cillian Gallagher, Dan Walsh, Max Deegan. Replacements: Shane Fenton, James Bollard, Conán O’Donnell, Sean O’Connor, Kelvin Brown, Stephen Kerins, Brett Connon, Terry Kennedy.
Again I thoroughly enjoyed this game and, in the first half in particular, there was a lot to enjoy from the Irish perspective. However the pressure being put on these youngsters is ridiculous. Ryan had a good enough game, in fact an excellent first half, but to hear him being referred to as the next Paul O’Connell was risible and about as meaningful as the young Ringrose being referred to the heir apparent to O’Driscoll in his first season as a professional! FFS people need to have some perspective in what is a development competition.
On the development front, and from an Ulster perspective, I enjoyed the first half performance from eighteen year old Johnny McPhillips (pictured above), despite a somewhat mixed bag. Excellent boot and a few nice breaks but he did butcher a few in the first half with somewhat aimless kicks. Let’s hope he’s given the time to develop his game. The next Ronan O’Gara! 🙂 🙂
As They Stand
Ireland have a couple of weeks to work on their errors before they play England. Add Ulster’s Stockdale, Arnold and Robert Lyttle, who’s been in the extended Ulster match day squads of late, into the mix for that one and they might be in a position to cause a upset.