Ireland U20s keep Six Nations-winning run intact with big win over Wales

Richie Murphy’s team showed better continuity and composure against an undisciplined Welsh side

Ireland Under 20s 43 Wales Under 20s 8

Ireland kept their Six Nations-winning run intact on a cold wet night in Cork, eventually running in six tries for what in the end was a comfortable wintry, run-out.

Dreaming of a third Grand Slam in succession, having skated on thin ice against Italy last time out with a slew of missed tackles and soft tries, Ireland put some issues to bed and showed better continuity and composure against an undisciplined Welsh side.

Reorganisation in the Irish pack by the soon-to-be Ulster interim coach Richie Murphy with four changes and a positional shift had hoped to cure early tournament scrum problems. Terenure College prop Ben Howard, hooker Henry Walker and tighthead prop Patreece Bell, were all promoted to the starting team as Ireland sought to defend their unbeaten run.


But in a nervy start the Irish scrum did become an issue with the home side heavily defending their 22 in the opening exchanges, thankfully the tackling more efficient than last time out where 34 were missed. But when outhalf Jack Murphy kicked Ireland into the Welsh 22 and a red shirt fell offside, Murphy punished with an easy penalty for 3-0.

Wales then went down to 14 players, when hooker Harri Thomas went to the bin for a shoulder tackle. Ireland were unable to immediately respond and faced more scrum issues, before conceding a penalty, Harry Wilde expertly kicking from a distance to draw level at 3-3.

Ireland’s first break came when a maul was collapsed by Wales and a Murphy penalty took Ireland into the 22 with an attacking lineout. Joe Hopes rose above the rest to secure possession and Ireland pumped bodies towards the Welsh line inching forward all the time.

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It finally took a powerful lunge from try scorer against Italy, Sean Edogbo, to part the red shirts for Ireland’s first try, Murphy converting for 10-3, seven points duly gained a man up.

Wales, the last team to beat Ireland in this competition, were competitive and in the closing stages of the half pushed Ireland back, forcing some staunch defending. The home side were struggling to find any real continuity in attack and although they led, it appeared to be Wales growing into the game.

That, however, was short-lived with an Irish flourish in the closing minutes as they lifted the tempo and swept up field, the phases again lining players up to strike at the Welsh defence from close range.

With penalties mounting, it was Galwegian centre Hugh Gavin, who squirmed over the line for the second try, Murphy again converting for a more comfortable distance between the teams, Ireland taking a 17-3 lead into the break.

Shortly after the return, Hopes was again rising at an Irish lineout with Henry Walker adding to his strong showing around the park by sprinting out of the Irish maul and over for the third try, Murphy kicking for 24-3.

While it seemed there was no way back for Wales at that stage, an overrun from fullback Anderson and a bouncing ball that touched the line as Welsh centre Ackerman was speeding away, preserved the Irish lead.

Ieuan Evans, the Welsh scrumhalf, did get over for 24-8 as the game opened somewhat but by then Ireland were finding their stride, Evan O’Connell, who would win player of the match with 16 carries, always in the thick of it.

When Wales gave away their 13th penalty of the match, Murphy again kicked for the line on 62 minutes. This time good work from Calvey allowed Danny Sheahan emerge from a pile of bodies from Ireland’s driving maul, Murphy converting for 31-8.

Another Welsh yellow card gave Ireland the freedom to push home their superiority in the closing stages, O’Connell jumping for yet another lineout ball and Sheahan, this time peeling away to take Ireland to 36-8 and cruising towards the win.

But they hadn’t finished. As the drizzle turned to heavy rain in the closing minutes Ireland were game for one more try, this time a backline interchange paying in spades. Right wing Finn Treacy triggered the move as he darted right at pace in the Welsh 22. A brilliantly timed run from fullback Ben O’Connor on Treacy’s inside was rewarded with a weighted pass and the fullback stretched his legs for the score.

It was a strong team performance, some scrum issues, and some lineout issues but again character and energy everywhere as Ireland face into their fourth match and England away in a couple of weeks time, the Grand Slam still alive.

Scoring sequence – 8 mins J Murphy pen 3-0; 14 mins H Wilde pen 3-3; 16 mins S Edogbo try, Murphy con 10-0; 40 mins H Gavin try, Murphy con 17-3. Halftime. 47 mins H Walker try, Murphy con 24-3; 54 mins I Davies try 24-8; 62 mins D Sheahan try, Murphy con 31-8; 67 mins S Shehan try 36-8; B O’Connor try, Murphy con 43-8.

Ireland: B O’Connor (UCC), F Treacy (Galwegians), W de Klerk (UCD), H Gavin (Galwegians), H McLaughlin (Lansdowne); J Murphy (Clontarf), O Coffey (Blackrock); Ben Howard (Terenure College), H Walker (Queen’s University), P Bell (Sale Sharks); J Hopes (Queen’s University), E O’Connell (UL Bohemian); Sean Edogbo (UCC), Bryn Ward (Ballynahinch), Luke Murphy (Shannon).

Replacements – D Calvey (Cork Constitution) for Howard 52 mins; A Usanov (Clontarf) for Walker 52 mins; D Sheahan for Coffey 54 mins; B Corrigan (Old Wesley) for Hopes 62 mins; T Brigg (Queen’s University) for Murphy 69 mins; T Brophy (Naas) for Coffey 69 mins; S Naughton (Galway Corinthians) for 67 mins; D Colbert (Dublin University) for Gavin 65 mins

Wales: H Anderson; Harry Rees-Weldon, L Hennessey, Harri Ackerman (capt), W Price; H Wilde, I Davies; J Morse, H Thomas, S Scott; J Green, N Thomas; O Thomas, H Beddall, L de la Rua.

Replacements – H Ford for Wilde 32 mins, J Morris for Morse 48 mins, K Hire for Scott 50 mins, O Conquer for Green 50 mins, M Page for Weldon 57 mins, R Lewis for Davies 66, W Wood for Thomas 57 mins, W Plessis for Thomas 77 mins

Referee: F Vedellini (Italy)

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times