John_s_version_1Ireland (0) 21
TRY: Adam McBurney, Shane Daly, Max Deegan. CON: Johnny McPhillips (2), Brett Connon.
England (21) 45
TRY: Joe Marchant (2), Callum Chick, Huw Taylor, Harry Mallander (2). CON: Harry Mallander (6). PEN: Harry Mallander.

Ireland U20’s fantastic journey in the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship came to a crashing halt on Saturday evening when they came up against a physical English side at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford. 

Ireland had beaten England in this season’s Six Nations but this was a different English side who had their Premiership players available for this encounter.

The professional rugby experience of the English, coupled with Ireland’s more difficult route to the final, made the difference as the home side streaked to a 21 – 0 lead in the first half thanks to tries from Joe Marchant, Callum Chick and Huw Taylor, all converted by Harry Mallander. 

A shell shocked Ireland regrouped after the break but, with the big English pack dominating the scrum, they had to live off scraps. It’s a credit to their remarkable resolve that they responded with tries from Adam McBurney, and Shane Daly, converted by Johnny McPhillips, and a late effort from Max Deegan, converted by Brett Connon, but by that stage England were home and hosed after a second half brace by Mallander and a second try from Marchant. 

The impressive Mallander converted all of England’s tries and found time to add a penalty after Ireland’s Stephen Kerins was yellow carded on the hour mark. 

Final Score: Ireland 21 England 45

Ireland U20: Jacob Stockdale, Matthew Byrne, Shane Daly, Conor O’Brien, Hugo Keenan, Johnny McPhillips, Stephen Kerins, Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney, Ben Betts, Sean O’Connor, James Ryan, Greg Jones, David Aspil, Max Deegan. Replacements: Vincent O’Brien, James Bollard, Adam Coyle, Evan Mintern, Kelvin Brown, Niall Saunders, Brett Connon, Jimmy O’Brien. 

While the players will be disappointed that they failed at the final hurdle they can take a huge amount of pride from their performances in this tournament. As I’ve said many times throughout this Championship, this is a hugely abrasive competition and after intensely physical encounters against Wales, New Zealand, Georgia and Argentina the squad just ran out of steam.

In fairness, they also faced an impressive England side, featuring five players with Premiership experience, and England’s dominance at scrum time gave Ireland no route back once England raced to their early lead.