Ireland now one step from Under-20 Grand Slam after memorable win over England

Richie Murphy’s side will take on Scotland at Musgrave Park next Sunday

England Under-20 27 Ireland Under-20 42

"We're gunning for the Grand Slam." Ireland captain Reuben Crothers highlighted the prize on offer next Sunday at Musgrave Park (5.0) when Richie Murphy's side will hope to crown an unbeaten Six Nations Championship campaign with a victory over a Scotland team that have lost all four of their matches in the campaign.

There was so much to admire in the manner in which this young Irish team beat their English hosts at the StoneX Stadium in London. They didn’t blink when they trailed by 10 points early on, didn’t let their heads drop when they let a number of try-scoring chances slip through their fingers early in the second half and never once backed down physically against their powerful opponents.

Ireland also produced some scintillating rugby, scoring five tries, and were far more enterprising in their general patterns. The visitors were outstanding to a man; outhalf Charlie Tector, who kicked superbly, won the man-of-the-match accolade but in truth it could have gone to half a dozen Irish players.


The pack was outstanding in all facets of the game, the set piece, the breakdown and in the manner in which punched holes in the English defence. It seems invidious to single out anyone as the eight forwards were brilliant individually and collectively but tighthead prop Rory McGuire deserves special mention for his display.

Matthew Devine and Tector provided direction at halfback, the young scrumhalf causing England all sorts of problems on the fringes. Jude Postlethwaite and Patrick Campbell were the pick of a backline until the arrival of replacement wing Aitzol King, whose two cracking tries effectively took the game away from the home side.

England started brightly but a good opening defensive set from Ireland after a couple of errors, one from the kick-off and a second from a loose pass would have provided the visitors will initial confidence.

However, Ireland got their spacing in defence all wrong on five minutes and England fullback George Hendy chose a lovely line to complement centre Jacob Cusick's perfectly timed pass. Jamie Benson added the conversion and then tagged on a penalty when Ireland fullback Patrick Campbell was penalised for not releasing at a ruck.

The visitors responded with their most cohesive passage of play in the opening throes of the contest, started by a gorgeous offload from scrumhalf Devine that finished with an Ireland penalty which Tector kicked to make it 10-3.

Devine offered an even more handsome and tangible contribution after 19 minutes. The visitors looked to have lost the chance when number eight James Culhane's offload couldn't find Mark Morrissey eight metres from the England line but Devine was sharpest to the loose ball and managed to wriggle out of a tackle and cross for his third try in the campaign.

Tector kicked the conversion and would repeat that feat on 22 minutes as Ireland claimed a second try, centre Postlethwaite making the initial break and after another superb carry from Culhane, the visitors hammered away on the line until Lorcan McLoughlin squeezed over; having trailed by 10, Ireland now led by seven.

A catalyst for their change of fortune was Ireland’s work at the breakdown that yielded penalties and turnovers.

A couple of missed first-up tackles and some ill discipline allowed the home side access to the Irish 22 and even though hooker John Stewart was denied a try, following a television match official review captain and number eight Emeka Ilione was deemed to have legitimately grounded the loose ball.

Benson kicked the conversion and England could have gone in ahead at the interval but their fragility at the lineout – three overthrows in the half – cost them a gilt-edged try-scoring opportunity; both teams would have been reasonably satisfied at the interval, the match beautifully poised at 17-17.

Ireland engineered a perfect start to the second half with a try from the outstanding McGuire, the visitors showing impressive composure and focus to hammer away on the fringes until the tighthead prop forced his way over. Tector’s conversion pushed Ireland into a 24-17 lead.

The visitors were left to rue two glorious try-scoring chances, Ben Carson losing control as he tried to give a scoring pass and then McLoughlin was held up over the England line. A break from Fionn Gibbon could have led to a try but Ireland gave away a penalty at the breakdown eight metres from the English line.

Ireland's reward for their dominance and some superbly enterprising play was a modest one, a penalty from outhalf Tector. The tariff of spurning those opportunities was reinforced when Cassius Cleaves crossed for a try in the corner. The England wing followed up with a brilliant try-scoring tackle to deny Chay Mullins minutes later, the Irish winger had earlier picked up a rib injury.

His replacement King made an immediate impact with a try that was executed with glorious training precision. King took Ethan Coughlan’s inside pass following a lineout and showed pace and strength to hold off a couple of tacklers. Five minutes later the Balbriggan wing had another, this with an even better finish; airborne and acrobatic to dot down one-handed in the corner.

England did complete the try-scoring in the match with a sharp finish from Bristol’s Deago Bailey but the night belonged to Ireland. Richie Murphy’s young team were thoroughly deserving winners, played some brilliant rugby and next Sunday will have a chance to cap a wonderful campaign in front of what should be a full house at Musgrave Park.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 5 mins: Hendy try, Benson con, 7-0; 10: Benson pen, 10-0; 13: Tector pen, 10-3; 18: Devine try, Tector con, 10-10; 22: McLoughlin try, Tector con, 10-17; 30: Ilione try, Benson con, 17-17. Half-time: 17-17. 43: McGuire try, Tector con, 17-24; 53: Tector pen, 17-27; 57: Cleaves try, 22-27; 61: King try, Tector con, 22-34; 66: King try, 22-39; 71: Tector pen, 22-42; 74: Bailey try, 27-42.

ENGLAND UNDER-20: G Hendy (Northampton); D Bailey (Bristol), J Cusick (Leicester), E Grayson (Northampton), C Cleaves (Harlequins); J Benson (Harlequins), S Edwards (Leicester); F Baxter (Harlequins), J Stewart (Bath), T Hoyt (Leicester); L Chessum (Leicester), T Lockett (Northampton); E Richards (Bath), T Knight (Saracens), E Ilione (Leicester, capt).

Replacements: Will Joseph (London Irish) for Cusick, C Cunningham-South (London Irish) for Lockett , L Johnson (Newcastle Falcons) for Benson (all 47 mins); L Brooke (London Irish) for Knight (55); M Summerfield (London Irish) for Hoyt (64); N Thomas (Sale Sharks) for Edwards (69); M Dormer (Newcastle Falcons) for Baxter (72); F Theobald-Thomas (Worcester Warriors) for Stewart (79).

IRELAND UNDER-20: P Campbell (Young Munster); C Mullins (Bristol), J Postlethwaite (Banbridge), B Carson (Banbridge), F Gibbons (UCD); C Tector (Lansdowne), M Devine (Galway Corinthians); J Boyle (UCD), J McCormick (Ballymena), R McGuire (UCD); C O'Tighearnaigh (UCD), M Morrissey (UCD); L McLoughlin (QUB), R Crothers (Ballynahinch, capt), J Culhane (UCD).

Replacements: E Coughlan (Shannon) for Devine (58 mins); A King (Clontarf) for Mullins (60); J Hanlon (Ballynahinch) for McCormick, S Wilson (QUB) for McGuire (both 69); T Butler (Garryowen) for Tector (71); D Mangan (UCD) for McLoughlin, J McNabney (Ballymena) for Morrissey (both 72); O Michel Lansdowne) for Boyle (75).

Referee: Damian Schneider (Argentina).