Emerging Ireland’s Georgian romp ended yesterday afternoon with a 42 – 33 win against Uruguay in the final match in the Tbilisi Cup. The win sees Emerging Ireland finish in second place behind the South African Presidents XV.
Ireland’s scored six tries through Ian Keatley (2), Tiernan O’Halloran, Niall Morris (2) and Niall Annett with Keatley converting all six as Ireland romped to a 42 – 14 lead though an enjoyable fightback from Uruguay kept us entertained to the final minutes.
The game kicked off at a hectic pace with Ireland on the scoreboard after 3 minutes. Keatley went over in the corner after a quick penalty tap, and converted it himself, as Ireland laid down an early marker that they were going to run the ball.
Minutes later O’Halloran latched on to a kick through from Eoin Griffin, following a big scrum from the Irish, to cross the line for Ireland’s second and with Keatley adding the extras a thrashing looked on the cards as Ireland led 14 – 0.
Uruguay hit back with a try of their own, to take the score to 14 – 7 after good work from their pack and an injury to Noel Reid saw late replacement Michael Allen making an early appearance.
Ireland responded almost immediately with Keatley crossing for his second score with the out half beating the midfield defence with pace to touch down under the posts. His conversion pushed the score to Ireland 21 Uruguay 7 with less than 20 minutes on the clock.
The pace dropped in the second quarter as the heat took it’s toll, Ulster’s Michel Heaney came on for the injured John Cooney but the rest off the half petered out without further incident.
Niall Morris added a quick brace at the start of the second half push Ireland clear, pouncing on a dropped pass in the middle of the park to race clear for his first and cutting inside and wrong footing a fairly week defence for his second. Keatley added the extras and the game was won with Ireland leading 35 – 7.
Ireland made a raft of substitutions on the 50th minute mark, with Peter Nelson and Naill Annett amongst those coming on and Nelson was immediately involved with a, slightly late, last gap try saving a certain score. Uruguay did cross moments alter after good work from their pack and the fight back was on with the Georgian crowd getting behind the underdogs.
Niall Annett looked to put a dampener on the revival going over moments later after a well worked line out move to push the score to 42 – 14, after Keatley converted, but Uruguay responded almost immediately with an unconverted try to close the margin to 19 – 42.
Ireland began to wilt in the heat and Uruguay got a second wind as they crashed over off the back of a scrum on the 67th minute to take it to 26 -42 as the underdogs enjoyed the best of the final quarter.
The game ended with a fifth Uruguayan touch down in the last minute which was converted to give a final score of Ireland 42 Uruguay 33.
EMERGING IRELAND: David Kearney, Niall Morris, Eoin Griffin, Noel Reid, Tiernan O’Halloran, Ian Keatley, John Cooney, Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Michael Bent, David O’Callaghan, David Foley, Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy, Eoin McKeon. Replacements: Niall Annett, Richard Lutton, Ian Nagle, Dominic Ryan, Michael Heaney, Michael Allen, Peter Nelson.
Niall Annett is probably the player to come out of this tournament with his reputation most enhanced. Having went through a stop start season due to injury, forced to watch his rival Rob Herring lock down the No. 2 spot behind Best at Ulster, the Ulster youngster has produced a couple of barnstorming appearances on this tour outperforming Herring in the line out and with his link play in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how these two young players get on next season but it should all be to Ulster’s benefit.
Heaney and Diack can also be satisfied with a good series from the Ulster perspective and David Kearney and Michel Bent were the surprise packages from the other provinces.