Ireland see off Scotland but tougher challenges lie ahead

Under-20 side move on to Junior World Championship in June

Ireland’s Cillian Gallagher drives for the line during the Under-20 Six Nations match against Scotland at Donnybrook. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Ireland U-20 26 Scotland U-20 18

Ireland won and in the immediate aftermath won't care too much about the aesthetics as the victory secured a third place finish in the Under-20 Six Nations Championship. When the review comes though it won't be as pleasant an experience.

The home side prevailed because they took enough chances and in hooker and man of the match, Adam McBurney, and Cillian Gallagher in particular had players who produced several pivotal moments in galvanising their team. The work-ons in attack and defence will be numerous, not least recognising space and exploiting it.

Two sloppy mistakes in the opening throes of the contest, constituted a familiar pattern for Ireland in the tournament, as they invited pressure from Scotland and it ended up costing them three points, as Adam Hastings, son of former Lions and Scotland fullback, kicked the penalty.


The home side had two or three opportunities to get outside a narrow Scots defence, but failed to appreciate the space, instead trying to pinball through cluttered corridors. Another catalogue of errors gave the Scots field position and then a second penalty, which Hastings gleefully accepted.

It took 25 minutes before Ireland produced their most coherent passage of rugby in the half, a cleverly worked lineout peel that eventually ended two phases later with a try from McBurney. Brett Connon converted.

The home side then conceded a soft try to Scottish wing Darcy Graham, converted by Hastings to Put the visitors 13-7 ahead before an element of farce brought an unusual end to the half.

The stadium clock indicated that 40-minutes was up – there were actually four minutes left – and Hastings kicked the ball off the pitch thinking time was up. Ireland won the lineout and with an element of good fortune, Jacob Stockdale was sent scampering over in the corner.

Connon missed the conversion but Ireland trailed by just a single point, 12-13 at the interval. Ireland’s performance in the 20 minutes after the interval brought about a significant improvement in accuracy and yielded two tries, the first for openside Will Connors and the second, a penalty try, after the Scottish scrum disintegrated.

Connon converted both and at 26-13 the home side should have kicked on, particularly as the Scots lost four starters to injury and Callum Sheldon to the sin bin, but it was the visitors who scored a breakaway try to make it 26-18.

Ireland kicked away too much possession, failing to make the use of turnover ball and despite excellent cameos from the bench by Max Deegan and Peter Claffey, they could not convert decent opportunities into points.

Going forward the decision-making and instincts have to be sharper and more aware. In defence there are issues too and against better teams in the Junior World Championship in June they won’t get away with sundry shortcomings on both sides of the ball.

Adam Coyle and Hugo Kean made their debuts late on as Ireland, held out, as a gutsy Scotland side refused to accept their fate.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 4 mins: Hastings penalty, 0-3; 17: Hastings penalty, 0-6; 25: McBurney try, Connon conversion, 7-6; 33: Graham try, Hastings conversion, 7-13; 37: Stockdale try, 12-13. Halftime: 12-13. 46: Connors try, Connon conversion, 19-13; 57: penalty try, Connon conversion, 26-13; 65: Taylor try, 26-18;

IRELAND U-20: B Connon (Newcastle Falcons); H Keenan (Leinster), S Daly (Munster), C O'Brien (Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster); J McPhillips (Ulster), S Kerins (Connacht); J Bollard (Leinster), A McBurney (Ulster), C O'Donnell (Connacht); S O'Connor (Munster), J Ryan (Leinster, capt); C Gallagher (Connacht), W Connors (Leinster), G Jones (Leinster).

Replacements: A Porter (Leinster) for Bollard halftime; Peter Claffey (Connacht) for O'Connor, M Deegan (Leinster) for Jones (both 52 mins); A Coyle (Leinster) for O'Donnell (70 mins); M Byrne (Leinster) for McPhillips, H Kean (Leinster) for Ryan, J Poland (Munster) for Kerins, P Kiernan (Munster) for Daly (all 76 mins).

SCOTLAND U-20: T Galbraith; D Graham, R Hutchinson, G Taylor, B Robbins; A Hastings, H Fraser; M McCallum, J Kerr, C Sheldon; C Hunter-Hill; S Ainslie; S Burnside, M Smith, A Miller.

Replacements: L Scott for Smith (29 mins); R Nairn, for Robbins, R Howarth for Hastings (both half-time); R Dawson for Nairn (47 mins); H Bain for Scott (55 mins); L Anderson for Kerr, G Thornton for Bain (both 57 mins); A Nicol for Sheldon 79 mins. Yellow card: C Sheldon (60 mins).

Referee: D Jones (Wales)

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer