The Under 20 Six Nations kicked off on Friday night with all three fixtures completed. And Friday night is going to be the night for this competition this season with all fixtures scheduled the Friday before the big event.
While there is value in the U20’s Six Nations in itself this competition is more generally regarded as a chance to have a look at the home nations squads ahead of the U20 World championship which will be held in France at the end of May, beginning of June this year.
The results for Round 1 are shown below:
|ROUND 1, Friday 2nd February 2018|
|18:00||ITALY U20S||17 – 27||ENGLAND U20S||Stadio Enzo Bearzot|
|20:15||WALES U20S||36 – 3||SCOTLAND U20S||Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay|
|20:00||FRANCE U20S||34 – 24||IRELAND U20S||Bordeaux|
Ireland U20’s have an interesting season ahead, not only is it a new squad, which is the norm in these competitions, but they also have a new coaching team, who have big boots to fill following the departure of Nigel Carolin to Connacht.
The new head coach is Noel McNamara who is supported by “the legend” Paul O’Connell, who takes his first dip into coaching at this level, and the new coaching team also features Tom Tierney who appears here as an assistant coach following his disastrous time in charge of Ireland Women.
It was an uninspiring first half performance from Ireland though it must be pointed out that they were up against a powerful French side. However, I was disappointed by the lack of invention in their play with their outside backs scarcely getting a look in. It was somewhat reminiscent of Ireland Women in their worst days at the World Cup!
France raced to a 22 – 3 lead at the break thanks to a brace of tries from Romain Ntamack and one from Ibrahim Diallo, the hugely impressive Ntamack adding a penalty and two conversions. Ireland responde with a penalty from out half Harry Byrne.
The second half was a much more satisfying affair with Ireland staging a Paul O’connell type fightback which was lick started by a penalty card and a yellow card, for French winger Iban Etcheverry, on the 53rd minute. Ireland enjoyed a purple patch with Ulster’s Jonny Stewart taking advantage of space on the wing to nip over off the back of a scrum for Ireland’s second. A much improved Byrne knocked over the extras to take the score to 22 – 17.
France had eased up as they looked to their bench but they looked to have the game back under their control when Jules Gimbert crossed, at the start of the final quarter, for an unconverted try to take the score to 27 – 17 but Ireland kept it interesting with a well worked try from James McCarthy after a neat interchange with captain Tommy O’Brien to put Ireland in strike range at 27 – 24 with seven minutes on the clock.
However, you always thought that France had something to spare and so it proved when Demba Bamba barged over from close range on the 79th minute, the conversion by Louis Carbonel pushing the score to 34 – 24.
It was always going to be a difficult game for Ireland U20’s.
My general feeling is that it was a promising second half performance but I find it hard to dismiss the poor first half. France always looked as if they had something to spare. Harry Byrne turned his game around when Ireland got on the front foot in the third quarter but, and there is an obvious Ulster bias here, I would have liked to have seen Ulster’s Angus Curtis given at least 20 minutes. My biggest disappointment of the game was that he didn’t get a run at all.
As for the rest of the Ulster lads, Jonny Stewart and Matthew Dalton did well as did Tom O’Toole when he came on. Aaron Hall put in a lot of tackles but handling could have been better, though you could have said that about most of the Ireland side in the first half. Angus Kernohan only made a brief appearance for a couple of HIA’s, the IRFU has him down for one period but I’m fairly sure I saw him on twice albeit for limited time on both occasions.
Ireland U20: Michael Silvester, Peter Sullivan, David McCarthy, Tommy O’Brien (c), James McCarthy, Harry Byrne, Jonny Stewart, Jordan Duggan, Ronan Kelleher, Jack Aungier, Cormac Daly, Jack Dunne, Matthew Dalton, Aaron Hall, Jack O’Sullivan. Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, James French, Tom O’Toole, Ronan Coffey, Sean Masterson, Hugh O’Sullivan, Angus Curtis, Angus Kernohan.
Team Standings after Round 1