Ireland U20’s secured their second win of the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship with a dramatic 33 – 20 win against, current World Champions, New Zealand.
Ireland (20) 33
TRY: Adam McBurney, Greg Jones, Max Deegan.
CON: Bill Johnston (2) Johnny McPhillips.
PEN: Bill Johnston (2) Johnny McPhillips (2).
New Zealand (14) 24
TRY: Jordie Barrett, Shaun Stevenson, Malo Tuitama (2)
CON: Jordie Barrett (2)
Adam McBurney, Greg Jones and Max Deegan were the try scorers with Bill Johnston adding two penalties and two conversions in the first half and Johnny McPhillips knocking over a conversion and two penalties in the second.
I’d predicted that Ireland would lose this one, albeit narrowly, but I’d obviously underestimated this group of young players, as they beat the World Champions with something to spare. I had stated that, if the back line cut out the mistakes, they could cause a major upset and, thankfully, they did that and more, their aggressive play forcing New Zealand to cough up the penalties that kept the Irish scoreboard ticking along nicely.
It was just such play that got Ireland off the mark after two minutes with Johnston slotting over a penalty for Ireland after pressure from Shane Daly. New Zealand hit back with a well taken try by Jordie Barrett, who also converted to give New Zealand a 7 – 3 lead.
Johnston reduced the defect with his second penalty but minutes later Ireland looked to be in trouble as McBurney was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on, which appeared a rather harsh decision! Ireland looked to have weathered the ten minute period but Shaun Stevenson crossed for their second converted try just before McBurney’s return to push their lead to 14 – 6.
However, Ireland regrouped and their forwards hit a golden spell with Jones crossing the whitewash off the back of a maul before McBurney made amends for his temporary absence with a barging run down the left flank for their second. Johnston converted both and Ireland led 14 – 20 with five minutes to go to half time.
The euphoria of the two quick scores was somewhat tempered by a shoulder injury to Johnston who looks to be out of the remainder of the tournament.
The injury gave McPhillips his first start of the championship and the Ulster youngster was quickly on the scoreboard with a confident penalty six minutes into the second half to extend Ireland’s lead to nine points.
Conditions worsened somewhat, as the constant rain turned torrential, and New Zealand adapted for Malo Tuitama to cross out wide as Ireland’s defence lost their footing. Crucially however the conversion was missed leaving Ireland with a four point lead to defend with over thirty minutes remaining.
Substitutions and the worsening conditions saw the game stagnate for twenty of those minutes but it burst back to life as Deegan took everyone by surprise with a blind-side break off the back of an attacking scrum. It looked like game over as McPhillips knocked over the conversion to give Ireland a 30 – 19 lead but Tuitama weaved over for his second try to make it a six point game with seven minutes remaining.
It was the Ireland scrum that once again produced the goods, winning a penalty to ease the pressure. McPhillips slotted it over to push the lead to nine points and Ireland finished the game on the attack, denying New Zealand a losing bonus.
Final Score: Ireland 33 New Zealand 24.
Ireland U20: Jacob Stockdale, Matthew Byrne, Shane Daly, Conor O’Brien, Hugo Keenan, Bill Johnston, Stephen Kerins, Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney, Ben Betts, Cillian Gallagher, James Ryan, Greg Jones, David Aspil, Max Deegan. Replacements: Vincent O’Brien, James Bollard, Vakh Abdaladze, Sean O’Connor, Kelvin Brown, Niall Saunders, Johnny McPhillips, Jimmy O’Brien.