Ireland U20 (21) 27
TRY: Tadgh McElroy, Tommy O’Brien, Oisin Dowling. CON: Bill Johnston. PEN: Bill Johnston (2).
France U20 (15) 22
TRY: Faraj Fartass (2), Penalty Try. CON: Romain N’Tamack. PEN: Romain N’Tamack.

Ireland U20 raced to a 21 – 10 half time lead thanks to tries from Tadgh McElroy, Tommy O’Brien and Oisin Dowling, all converted by Bill Johnston. Despite intense pressure from France in the second half the Irish youngsters kept their noses in front, thanks to two Johnston penalties, to secure a notable 27- 22 win.  

I’d made France the favourites going into this one and they started the game strongly, keeping Ireland pinned in their own half for the opening ten minutes. It was an abrasive opening with Ireland losing two players to HIA’s with captain Calvin Nash departing permanently to be replaced by Alex McHenry. 

Ireland finally got some traction and worked their way out of their own half and a charge down by McHenry kept them in their opponents 22.  After a couple of pokes at the line, hooker Tadgh McElroy went over for the opening score. Johnston converted and Ireland had a surprise lead as the first quarter drew to a close. 

Play switched from end to end. McElroy came close off a line out but the French got a toe hold following a  penalty by Romain N’Tamack. Ireland hit back with a delightful play by Tommy O’Brien who chased through his own grubber kick to touch down and score. Johnston again converted and Ireland lead 14 – 3.

Ireland enjoyed a golden phase as they continued to pound the French line. Two attempts went upstairs, the second being awarded to Oisin Dowling who drove over from close range. Johnston again converted and Ireland had an extraordinary 21 – 3 lead by the half hour mark.

France replied before the break when Faraj Fartass crossed unopposed out wide after a period of French pressure. N’Tamack put the conversion over off the upright to take the score to 21 – 10 at the break.  

Jonny Stewart, Peter Cooper, Rob Lyttle, Marcus Rea, Ireland U20 Ulster Rugby

Ulster players after the Ireland U20’s win against France. (l-r) Jonny Stewart, Peter Cooper, Rob Lyttle, Marcus Rea.

Johnston landed a penalty early in the second half as Ireland looked to push on. However France had made quite a few changes at the break and the impetus started to turn.

Sure enough a line out turnover in the Irish 22 eventually ended with Fartass dotting down in the corner for an unconverted try. 

The French attacks came thick and fast and as the pressure built Ireland’s Sean Masterson was carded at a ruck. The resultant scrum ended, after a few attempts, with a penalty try awarded to the French. N’Tamack converted to take the score to  24 – 22.

Ireland hit back with the second penalty from Johnston to take the score to 27 – 22 putting a crucial five points between the teams. 

France pushed for a winning score but Ireland held on reasonably comfortably to remain unbeaten in the RBS U20 Six Nations. 

Final score: Ireland U20 27 France U20 22

Ireland U20: Rob Lyttle, Jordan Larmour, Tommy O’Brien, Ciaran Frawley, Calvin Nash, Bill Johnston, Jonny Stewart, Joey Conway, Tadgh McElroy, Charlie Connolly, Jack Regan, Oisin Dowling, Marcus Rea,Paul Boyle, Caelan Doris. Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Rory Mulvihill, Peter Cooper, Gavin Coombes, Sean Masterson, Jack Lyons, Conor Fitzgerald, Alex McHenry.

Match Gallery 1 of 2. Ian Humes Photography.

Match Gallery 2 of 2. Bob Given Photography.

RBS U20 Six Nations Standings.

England U20 3 3 0 0 142 38 104 3 15
Ireland U20 3 3 0 0 74 67 7 0 12
WalesU20 3 2 0 1 113 76 37 0 9
France U20 3 1 0 2 75 94 -19 1 6
Scotland U20 3 0 0 3 61 121 -60 1 2
Italy U20 3 0 0 3 31 100 -69 1 1