England (17) 20
TRY: Sam Smith, George Perkins. CON: Mathew Protheroe (2). PEN: Mathew Protheroe. DG: Mathew Protheroe.
Ireland (6) 26
TRY: James Ryan, Matthew Byrne, Andrew Porter. CON: Brett Connon PEN: Johnny McPhillips (2), Brett Connon.
Ireland U20’s got their RBS Six Nations account off the ground in some style with a 20 unanswered point in the second half to take this game by 20 – 26. Tries came from James Ryan, Matthew Byrne and Andrew Porter with Brett Connon converting one. Johnny McPhillips chipped in with two first half penalties, Connon slotting over a third in the closing minutes.
I’d said in my preview, “if things go right and the passes stick this group of youngsters has the potential to cause an upset” but it looked in the first half that the game was going to go the same way as their previous two outings as defensive mistakes led to a poor clearance of the kick off. A scrum turnover, penalty to England and line out later and Sam Smith bundled over for the first try of the game. Mathew Protheroe added the penalty and England led 7 – 0.
Ireland enjoyed the bulk of possession for the remainder of the first quarter but only had a Johnny McPhillips penalty to show for their efforts with too many mistakes in the red zone and they were dealt a huge body-blow when a sensational break by, England’s out-half, Protheroe was finished off by George Perkins. Protherow converted to push the score to 14 – 3 and it was already looking a long road back for Ireland’s youngsters.
McPhillips slotted over Ireland’s second penalty on the 27th minute but missed his fourth attempt ten minutes later and the half ended very much in the hosts favour when Ireland’s Conan O’Donnell received a yellow card on the 40th minute and Protheroe slotted over the resultant penalty to give England a 17 – 6 lead at the break.
Protherow slotted over an early drop goal minutes after the restart to move the scoe along to 20 – 6 and in my match notes I commented, “Long road back for Ireland, they need to score next!” and thankfully that’s how it turned out as the game began to swing Ireland’s way.
England’s Sam Smith received a yellow card for illegal entry at a maul and minutes later Ireland’s captain James Ryan crossed with some ease off the back of a maul. McPhillips’ poor form off the tee continued as he pulled the conversion wide but Ireland were back in the match at 20 – 11 after 48 minutes.
While McPhillips was having a poor day off the tee his play with ball in hand certainly sparked to life in the second half. An adventurous pass in his own 22 relived a period of English pressure which was followed up with a penalty into the left hand corner. The forwards had a couple of darts at the England line before the ball was moved wide for Matthew Byrne to finish in the corner. Brett Connan took over kicking duties and slotted over the conversion to make it a two point game with England leading 20 – 18 after 53 minutes.
The hosts looked to up the pressure and spent a sustained period in the Ireland 22. A try was disallowed for failing to release after a tackle and Ireland eventually broke out in a sparkling move that saw Shane Daly tackled in the England 22. Ryan and Andrew Porter took the ball on with Porter crashing over to give Ireland the lead.
Connon missed the conversion, Ireland leaving 10 points on the field throughout the game, but Ireland were well on top. McPhillips and Daly combined to send Byrne racing for the corner, only to be hauled up short but minutes later the game was wrapped up as England’ Stan South was dismissed and Connon slotted over the resultant penalty.
Final Score: England 20 Ireland 26
Nigel Carolan’s charges can now look forward to the rest of the tournament with some confidence.
Ireland: Jack Power, Hugo Keenan, Shane Daly, Jimmy O’Brien, Conor O’Brien, Johnny McPhillips, Stephen Kerins, Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney, Conán O’Donnell, Peter Claffey, James Ryan, Cillian Gallagher, Will Connors, Greg Jones. Replacements: Shane Fenton, James Bollard, Ben Betts, Sean O’Connor, Kelvin Brown, John Poland, Brett Connon, Matthew Byrne.