Ireland just fall short in opening game
Wales U-20 17 Ireland U-20 15:Ireland lost their opening game of the Junior Six Nations after slipping to a narrow defeat in Wales.
Luke McGrath and Thomas Daly both crossed as Ireland outscored their hosts two tries to one in Colwyn Bay but that could not compensate for indiscipline and being overpowered in the scrum.
Despite a nervous start, a non-existent scrum and a mounting penalty count, Ireland somehow conspired to lead 7-3 at half-time at a blustery Parc Eirias.
Ireland’s youngsters were fortunate not to find themselves 16 points down inside barely a dozen minutes but were saved by the wayward left boot of Sam Davies, who missed three times, while Wales squandered a try under pressure by George McGuigan.
Ireland’s hooker covered plenty of ground but was fighting a losing battle in the scrums where the absence of three loosehead props took its toll under immense pressure from their hosts and Davies opened the scoring after a fifth engagement ended in a penalty. Daly and Rory Scannell showed glimpses in attack with the little possession they had but it was McGrath who proved the real threat.
The UCD scrumhalf, armed with experience from first-team appearances with Leinster, was a lively presence, sparking the Irish back line and darting forward at any opportunity and earning the game’s first try.
Gavin Thornbury provided ideal attacking possession from the lineout, Scanell made the most of it by making the hard yards before McGrath stepped between two opponents on the line for a try that Daly converted.
McGrath’s half-back partner Crosbie also threatened while opposite number Davies failed to cut Ireland’s lead before half-time when he missed a fourth penalty.
However, the game slipped from Ireland’s grasp in space of 10 minutes. Davies trimmed the lead to a single point but Wales were gradually turning the screw up front and the pressure told when Malone prop Christopher Taylor was binned for failing to roll away in the tackle.
Already under pressure at the scrum, Ireland managed to repel the subsequent drive but fell short of number outs wide where Dion Jones crossed on 55 minutes and Scanell’s high tackle on Ellis Jenkins enabled Davies to open a 14-7 lead.
Yet to their credit, Ireland refused to buckle and had built up a head of steam and after turning down two shots at goal, Daly finally barged his way through two tackles to clinch his team’s second try.
Davies struck a fourth penalty before Daly set up a nail-biting finish with his first penalty five minutes from time. But by then, Ireland were running on empty.