Ireland U20 finished off their 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship campaign in style with a 24 -18 win against tournament hosts Georgia U20’s at a packed Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi, on Sunday afternoon. Ireland’s tries were scored by Alan Tynan, Caelan Doris and Paul Boyle with out-half Conor Dean adding three conversions and a penalty.
Despite the match being only the 9th place play-off it was held at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, due to Ireland playing the tournament hosts, and the organisers were not disappointed with this game attracting an estimated 15,000 locals, the largest crowd of the tournament. The atmosphere generated by the Georgian support certainly made for an enthralling contest.
The hosts came out determined to make their mark and kept Ireland pinned in their own half for most of the opening ten minutes. Ireland came close, Calvin Nash held up over the line, but their injury-wracked tournament continued with Nash having to leave shortly after to be replaced by Ulster’s Mark Keane.
The first quarter ended scoreless but there was plenty of action with big hits coming from both sides. Somewhat ominously the Georgian scrum was well on top which kept the home side in the right areas of the pitch.
Ireland U20 finally got their breakthrough at the start of the second quarter with Tynan breaking down the left wing to force his way over in the corner. Deans converted and Ireland led 7 – 0.
The score upped the Georgian effort and roared on by the home crowd they dominated the remainder of the first half. Their feisty scrum half Gela Aprasidze opened their scoring with a penalty in the 27th minute and shortly after loosehead Guram Gogichashvili crossed the line and Aprasidze converted to put Georgia ahead 7- 10 at the break.
Ireland U20 enjoyed a golden spell at the start of the second half with Caelan Doris and Paul Doyle crossing within minutes of each other. Dean converted both and Ireland looked well set with a 21 – 10 lead by the 50th minute.
However, a wonder try by scrum half Aprasidze brought the score to 21 – 15, a score that ramped the crowd up even more, and when Aprasidze added a penalty in the sixtieth minute a decidedly tetchy final quarter ensued.
Fortunately, the Irish lads held firm and the 73rd-minute pressure penalty by Dean took some of the sting out of the closing exchanges with Ireland closing out this pulsating encounter with a 24 – 18 win.
Ireland U20: Alan Tynan, Michael Silvester, Gavin Mullin, David McCarthy, Calvin Nash, Conor Dean, Jack Stafford, Jordan Duggan, Ronan Kelleher, Charlie Connolly, Fineen Wycherley, Oisin Dowling, John Foley, Paul Boyle, Caelan Doris. Replacements: Adam Moloney, Joey Conway, Greg McGrath, Jack Regan, Gavin Coombes, Jonny Stewart, Ciaran Frawley, Mark Keane.
The three defeats in the pool games obviously mean that this is not the tournament that Ireland would have wanted but I suspect that this win in a hostile atmosphere will stay in the players’ memories for a long time. Haven’t gone through all the statistics yet but I think there are eleven of the finishing squad that will be available for next season’s tournament and matches like this one will stand them in good stead.
Looking forward to it already! 🙂