A poor first half cost Ireland their chance of a 7th place finish in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina with New Zealand capitalising to record a 40 – 17 win. 

It’s left Ireland with a disappointing 8th place finish that will have taken some of the shine off their Six Nations Grand Slam, especially as with France (Champions), England (5th) and Wales (6th) all finished above them on the world stage. 

However, it was an improvement on last season’s performance where they ended one score away from relegation into the lower tier World Rugby U20 Trophy tournament. 

The game was lost in the opening quarter as New Zealand ran in three tries with Etene Nanai-Seturo scoring either side of a try from Oliver Norris. Rivez Reihana converted two to give New Zealand a 19 – 0 lead in the first 13 minutes. 

Leicester Fainga’anuku crossed at the start of the second quarter and Reihana converted to push the score along to 26 – 0 before Ireland got to grips with the fast paced game. 

Ireland eventually managed to stem the one way flow and they gave themselves something to work on in the second half when prop Josh Wycherly found the line from close in to record Ireland’s first score on the 39th minute. The conversion was missed but Ireland’s chances improved further as New Zealand’s centre, Billy Proctor’s was binned for a high tackle as Ireland pushed for a second score before the break. Ireland were unable to take advantage in the limited time left and the teams turned round with New Zealand leading 26 – 5.

Ireland enjoyed their best period at the start of the second half with some good running by Queen’s Angus Kernohan keeping them on the front foot. Dylan Tierney-Martin finished off one break minutes into the second half, which Jake Flannery converted, and on the 50th minute a rather lovely move down the left, involving four offloads, was finished off by Ryan Baird to take the score to 26 – 17. The big back row getting his hands on the ball a couple of times in the flowing move. 

It was an exciting spell from Ireland but ultimately they had left themselves with too much to do and New Zealand consolidated their win with tries from Tamaiti Williams and Shilo Klein as the game went into the last ten minutes. Reihana converted both and, despite New Zealand’s Tamati Williams being yellow carded in the closing minutes the Baby Blacks held on for a comfortable 40 – 17 win.

Starting teams and replacements used:

IRELAND U20 NEW ZEALAND U20
1 Josh Wycherley Young Munster 1 Oliver Norris Waikato
2 Dylan Tierney-Martin Corinthians 2 Shilo Klein Canterbury
3 Thomas Clarkson Dublin University 3 Fletcher Newell Canterbury
4 Charlie Ryan (Capt.) UCD 4 Cullen Grace Canterbury
5 Thomas Ahern Shannon 5 Tupou Va’ai Taranaki
6 Ryan Baird Trinity College, Dublin 6 Kaylum Boshier (Capt.) Taranaki
7 Ronan Watters St Mary’s College 7 Jeriah Mua Bay of Plenty
8 Brian Deeny Clontarf 8 Simon Parker Waikato
9 Craig Casey Shannon 9 Taufa Funaki Auckland
10 Jake Flannery Cork Constitution 10 Rivez Reihana Auckland
11 Rob Russell Dublin University 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku Tasman
12 Cormac Foley St Mary’s College 12 Quinn Tupaea Waikato
13 Liam Turner Dublin University 13 Billy Proctor Wellington
14 Angus Kernohan QUB 14 Etene Nanai-Seturo Counties Manukau
15 Max O’Reilly Dublin University 15 Cole Forbes Bay of Plenty
   
17 Michael Milne UCD 17 Rob Cobb Auckland
  18 Kaliopasi Uluilakepa Wellington
19 John McKee Old Belvedere 19 Tamaiti Williams Canterbury
20 Niall Murray Connacht 20 Taine Plumtree Wellington
21 Luke Clohessy Shannon  
22 Azur Allison Ballymena 22 James Thompson Waikato
  24 Leroy Carter Bay of Plenty
25 Ben Healy Garryowen 25 Fergus Burke Canterbury
26 Jonathan Wren Cork Constitution 26 Dallas Mcleod Canterbury

 

Unfortunately, it’s a disappointing end to what was a very promising season for a group of players who consistently emptied the tank every time they pulled on a green jersey. Their energy, enthusiasm and their bloody minded refusal to lie down and accept defeat has been infectious and they have put some stability back into the U20’s programme after two fairly poor years.

Considering their Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this season they will be disappointed with an 8th place finish in this tournament but in a lot of ways the success in the Six Nations determined that they were always going to have a difficult time in this highly attritional competition.

They, rightly, stuck with a winning team throughout the Six Nations but the knock on effect was they didn’t have a wide enough player base blooded on the front line for when the inevitable injuries started to kick in. 

It would be interesting to see the Ireland Management Team prioritising this tournament next year and, now with that Grand Slam in the bag, they just might.  

As for next season, the Pools, have been predetermined for the 2020 World Rugby U20 Championship  based on the final placings of the teams in this one. The tournament will take place in Italy for the third time. 

Ireland, again, find themselves in the same group as Australia and England with Fiji making up the fourth following their final day win against Scotland. Another attritional tournament awaits 🙂 

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