England Saxons 23 Wolfhounds 17
Despite outscoring England Saxons by three tries to two, few of the Irish Wolfhounds put their hand up for inclusion in the senior squad after a disjointed performance at Sandy Park, Exeter, last night.
In truth it wasn’t a match that distracted me much from browsing through my StumbleUpon account, though it did spring to life in the closing quarter, chiefly due to the Wolfhounds having an unexpected chance to snatch an unlikely win despite trailing 17 – 5 early in the second half.
Replacement scrum half Thomas O’Leary rolled back the years with a well taken try to take the score to 17 – 12 but two penalty kicks from Saxon’s Freddie Burns made the game safe with five minutes to go. Munster’s Simon Zebo scored a consolation try in the corner with the final play of the night.[aside type=”rant” status=”closed”]It is hard to get into these games particularly if you have your own provincial agenda as to who should be on the team. A yappy snappy Marshall would have been much more interesting at scrum half and Humphreys, O’Connor and indeed Madigan (who eventually came on) would have been much better options than the considerably out of form Keatley. Despite scoring, Zebo and David Kearney showed little, with Zebo butchering the easiest of chances with a three man overlap. Craig Gilroy, who has outplayed both throughout his career, certainly has more to offer.
The front row were woeful, completely dominated at scrum time, though Wilkinson did show up in the loose occasionally, but how Varley and Sherry can pick up spots ahead of Kyraicou and Brady always leaves me dumbfounded?[/aside]
England started strongly, racing to a 10 – 0 lead in as many minutes, scores coming from a try by scrum half Ben Spencer and a conversion and penalty from Burns.
Ireland worked their way into the game, with good carries from Dan Tuohy and Rhys Ruddock, eventually fashioning a golden opportunity for Zebo. With a three on one, and the line gaping, Zebo was smashed into touch by Matt Banahan when a simple inside pass would have set up the easiest of chances.
Ireland continued to push and ten minutes later good work by Eoin O’Malley sent Kearney over close to the posts. Unfortunately the out of form Keatley missed the simple conversion and the teams turned round 10 – 5.
England scored the first points in the second half with Thomas Waldron snapping up a bouncing grubber from Burns. The Saxon’s out half added the extras to take the score to 17 – 5 and Ireland responded by swapping out the half back paring of Isaac Boss and Ian Keatley for Tomas O’Leary and Ian Madigan.
O’Leary made an imediate impact, darting over for a try with twenty minutes to go, and with Madigan converting to take the score to 17 – 12 the Wolfhounds had a sniff of a chance.
As it was, England closed out the game easily enough with two penalties from Burns giving the home side an eleven point lead.
Zebo went over in the final play, but it was too little too late for he Wolfhounds.[aside type=”aside” status=”open”]Of the Ulster players on show I would say that Tuohy, figuratively and literally, made the biggest impact, with some good carries and contributing well around the field. Henry did OK but was fairly quied based on his own recent high standards. Spence did nothing wrong, well maybe apart for a fumble for the Saxons second try, but he did look rusty!
It’s a pity that Ireland will have no more matches for the Wolfhounds this year, thanks largely to the demise of the Churchill Cup, as there are a few Ulster men, particularly at half back and in the front row that I’d like to see given a chance at this level. [/aside]
Saxons: (15-9) Armitage, Monye, Hopper, Twelvetrees, Banahan, Burns, Spencer. (1-8) Mullan, Gray, Doran-Jones, Garvey, Robson, Gaskell, Saull, Waldrom. (16-22) Brooker, Myall, Johnson, May, Hodgson.
Wolfhounds: (15-9) Gavin Duffy, David Kearney, Eoin O’Malley, Nevin Spence, Simon Zebo, Ian Keatley, Isaac Boss. (1-8) Brett Wilkinson, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer, Dan Tuohy, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, Chris Henry (Capt), Rhys Ruddock. (16-22) Mike Sherry, Ronan Loughney, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Tomas O’Leary, Ian Madigan, Denis Hurley