Sunday, June 13. Rosario, Argentina.

Ireland U20’s slumped to a disappointing defeat against host side Argentina in their final pool match in the IRB Junior World Championship.

Ireland’s best possible finish is now ninth. They join Scotland, Samoa and Tonga in the 9th-12th place play-offs, with the Samoans their next opponents in Parana on Thursday 17th June.

Sickened by the sound of those bloody horns in the FIFA World Cup it was with some relief that I turned over to Setanta Sports to watch Ireland’s final pool game in the Junior World Championship last night.

I had been chatting to The Raven earlier in the day about how much I was looking forward to this match, I felt that Ireland had underperformed in their last outing against England, and I was fully expecting a reasonably comfortable Irish win. I was particularly looking forward to the scrums as both the Argentine and Irish packs had excelled in the black arts in their previous games.

Ireland, led by Niall Annett, started well and dominated the opening thirty minutes. They were on top in the scrums and the line outs, scored an excellent try, with second row Ben Marshall finishing of a great move, and had came close on a couple of other occasions with Nevin Spence and Eoin Griffin breaking well in midfield.

James McKinney was kicking well from hand and from the tee and 13 points was scant reward from Ireland’s opening onslaught. Certainly, it must have been tempting for the Irish boys to think that they had the game won.

However, having lost their tour captain Rees Ruddock to the senior squad, Ireland suffered another telling blow to their pack leadership with the departure of the immensely impressive Stewart Maguire and from that point on Ireland’s dominance began to waver.

Argentina hit back with a try, conversion, penalty and drop goal in the last ten minutes of the first half to bring the score to 13 – 13 and with No. 8 Paddy Buttler binned for offside things were looking ominous for Ireland.

Argentina bagged another try shortly after the restart, taking the lead for the first time in the match.

McKinney kept Ireland in touch with a penalty but Argentina pulled a decisive eight points clear with a couple of penalties of their own.

Ireland came back with a try by David Doyle in the closing minutes of the game after some good work by McKinney but it was too little too late and Argentina held on reasonably comfortably for their win.

Ulster players.

Nevin Spence had a great first half, running good lines and making quite a few breaks. Didn’t get much of a chance to shine in the second half and limped off injured in the closing minutes.

James McKinney yet again had a good game with the boot but still struggled to move the ball through the hands with great effect. Kicked a little too much but did well for Irelands final try.

Niall Annett had the pack working well until Maguire went off and has done well in a front row that, when fit, dominated French, English and Argentine opponents. Excellent play round the park and a great prospect when he bulks up a bit.

Michael Heaney only got on for the last ten minutes, which was a bit of a disappointment after his performance against England. Again he injected a sense of urgency at scrumhalf and Ireland look much more attack minded when he’s on.

11 minutes – Ireland penalty: McKinney – 0-3
16 mins – Ireland try: Marshall – 0-8; conversion: McKinney – 0-10
27 mins – Ireland penalty: McKinney – 0-13
37 mins – Argentina try: Vila – 5-13: conversion: Mendez – 7-13
39 mins – Ireland yellow card: Butler
40 mins – Argentina penalty: Mendez – 10-13
40+2 mins – Argentina drop goal: Muedra – 13-13
Half-time – Argentina 13 Ireland 13
47 mins – Argentina try: De La Vega – 18-13
51 mins – Ireland penalty: McKinney – 18-16
53 mins – Argentina penalty: Mendez – 21-16
72 mins – Argentina penalty: Mendez – 24-16
78 mins – Ireland try: Doyle – 24-21
Full-time – Argentina 24 Ireland 21

IRELAND: Andrew Conway; Darren Hudson, Eoin Griffin, Nevin Spence, Simon Zebo; James McKinney, John Cooney; Jack O’Connell, Niall Annett (capt), Stewart Maguire, David O’Callaghan, Ben Marshall, Jordi Murphy, Dominic Ryan, Paddy Butler.

Replacements used: Denis Buckley for Maguire (24 mins, inj), Noel Reid for Hudson (40+1), David Doyle for O’Connell (60, inj), Brendan Macken for Zebo (63), Michael Heaney for Cooney, Brian O’Hara for Ryan (both 73), Brian Hayes for Spence (80+1, inj).