Ireland U20’s came up just short in a highly entertaining match against England U20’s at Donnybrook on Friday night. The 10 – 14 win for the visitors saw the English youngsters complete an impressive Six Nations Grand Slam.
England scored all their points in the first half with Jack Nay and Henry Walker scoring converted tries either side of a Bill Johnston penalty for Ireland.
However Ireland responded well in the second half and a 64th minute try from Gavin Coombes set up an exciting finish as Ireland pushed hard for the winning score.
Ireland U20 (3) 10
TRY: Gavin Coombes.
CON: Bill Johnston.
PEN: Bill Johnston.
England U20 (14) 14
TRY: Jack Nay, Henry Walker.
The visitors started well and opted for a series of line outs as the kept the pressure on the home side. Eventually a simple peel of the front of one of the attacking line outs saw second row Nay cross as his team piled in behind him. Max Malins added the difficult conversion from out wide.
Ireland responded well and kept England pinned in their own 22 only for the English to win a series of relieving penalties with excellent work at the breakdown.
Ireland did eventually come away with Johnstone knocking over a penalty on the stroke of half time but it was scant reward for Ireland after their period of concerted pressure.
Unfortunately there was still time for the visitors to deliver a decisive score as the regained the restart and hooker Walker ran a clever line to go over unopposed in the final play of the half. Malins added the extras to take the score to 14- 3 at the break.
With Ireland turning round to face the strong wind I din’t give them much of a chance as the match resumed however they started well and really should have grabbed a score, the breakdown letting them down once again.
They eventually got their reward on the 64th minute when Coombes found the line after a series of close in drives. Johnston added the extras and it was game on with the score at 10 – 14.
A tense final quarter followed which ended with Ireland camped on the English line as the visitors struggled to clear under pressure.
It looked like the Irish youngsters had done enough as they crossed with the last play of the game but the ball was held up, much to the relief of the English.
Ireland: Jordan Larmour, Tommy O’Brien, Gavin Mullin, Ciaran Frawley, Calvin Nash, Bill Johnston, Jonny Stewart, Joey Conway, Tadgh McElroy, Charlie Connolly, Fineen Wycherley, Oisin Dowling, John Foley, Paul Boyle, Caelan Doris. Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Greg McGrath, Matthew Burke, Jack Regan, Gavin Coombes, Jack Stafford, Conor Fitzgerald, Colm Hogan.
All in all it was probably the best performance from Ireland this series and with a couple of big names to return they look well set for the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia in June.
Wasn’t a great series for the Ulster contingent, scrum half Jonny Stewart being the only ever present. As for the rest, Johnny McPhillips, Rob Lyttle and Peter Cooper missed out due to injury and Marcus Rea was unlucky to get bumped out for this one due to positional swaps.