The Ireland Under-20s suffered their second defeat at the IRB Junior World Championship in Rosario, going down to a muscular English side that eventually wore them down. The defeat puts Ireland out of contention for a semi-final play-off and their match on Sunday, against hosts Argentina, will determine their final level of play-off participation.
I’d been getting quite excited about this match throughout the day but unfortunately it failed to live up to the Six Nations encounter with Ireland failing to raise their game with England proving too powerful at the breakdown.
Ireland’s chances weren’t helped with over officious refereeing which hit Ireland at key stages but at the end of the day it was Ireland’s conservative approach with the ball in hand that probably cost them the match.
It’s disappointing that they were not more adventurous from early on as the backs appeared to have the beating of their English counterparts when they did open up.
As far as the Ulster players were concerned:
Nevin Spence looked out of sorts on the wing and Ireland’s midfield did suffer from his absence – a selection change that didn’t work out in my opinion.
Niall Annett had his usual hard working game until he got a bang in the ribs towards the end – highly effective in the scrum and the loose he’ll be an exceptional prospect when he bulks up a bit.
James McKinney kicked well, but kicked too often – such is life behind a beaten pack.
Michael Heaney looked sharp when he came on at the end and certainly injected much needed urgency at scrum half. Hopefully we’ll see him start against Argentina.
The most pleasing aspect of the two games so far has been the performance of the Irish set piece scrum. O’Connell, Annett and Maguire have done well to dominate both their French and now their English counterparts with excellent technique. Maybe the seniors of Buckley, Horan and Healy should spend a bit of time with them to learn how to scrummage!
IRELAND: Andrew Conway; Nevin Spence, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Simon Zebo; James McKinney, John Cooney; Jack O’Connell, Niall Annett, Stewart Maguire, David O’Callaghan, Brian Hayes, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Dominic Ryan, Paddy Butler.
Replacements used: Eoin Griffin for Macken (half-time), Ben Marshall for Hayes (43 mins), Bryan Cagney for O’Connell, Brian O’Hara for Ryan (both 60), Michael Heaney for Cooney, David McSharry for McKinney, David Doyle for Annett (all 71), Jack O’Connell for Maguire (75).