Ireland U-20s make heavy weather of Italy
Ireland far from their best as they win 19-13 at Donnybrook
Ireland’s Peter Claffey is stopped by Giovannin Pettinelli of Italy at Donnybrook. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Ireland survived, just about, in a match that demonstrated the maddening inconsistency of their performances in the tournament.
Trailing at the interval, they produced some excellent rugby to wrest the ascendancy in the game and on the scoreboard only to threaten to throw away the game with the same carelessness that had pockmarked much of their first half display.
The Italians came within millimetres of having a kick to win the match but they too will reflect on a lack of composure and perhaps patience as they assailed the Irish line with brute force two minutes from the end of the game; the visitors consumed by white line fever as they failed to notice a numerical advantage wide that would have left a run-in.
Ireland relied on some excellent individual performances, Will Connors was outstanding, Conor O’Brien had a brilliant second half, Greg Jones put in two of the biggest hits of the match, while Cillian Gallagher was a bundle of energy in a decent effort from the pack.
Captain James Ryan appeared wherever the main theatre of action unfolded while Adam McBurney and Andrew Porter gave their team gain-lines. Behind the scrum though the game management was haphazard, and the lines of running east-west in orientation.
Ireland’s ambition in the opening 40-minutes was undermined by a litany of errors, many relating to the basic tenets of the game, dropping passes, spilling ball in contact and far too lateral on the periodic occasions they did manage quick, front foot ball.
The discipline was an issue too, conceding eight penalties, three of which were awarded against tighthead prop, Conan O’Donnell in the scrum. He was perhaps as much sinned against as sinning - Daniele Rimpelli was driving straight in on an angle - but not in the eyes of Scottish referee Sam-Grove White, who eventually brandished a yellow card.
In O’Donnell’s absence the home side leaked 10 points, through a try from flanker Giovanni Pettinelli, converted by outhalf Leonardo Mantelli, who also tagged on a penalty. The Italians deserved their lead at that point, direct in their running lines, complemented by neat footwork, particularly scrumhalf, Charly Trussardi.
Ireland relied on a brace of penalties from fullback Brett Connon but created precious little because they couldn’t manage to build more than three or four phases during that period.
As if to illustrate the arbitrary nature of Grove-White’s decisions at scrum time he penalised Rimpelli three minutes after the re-start, making it 3-2 in penalties, in the tussle on that particular side of the scrum.
Connon kicked his fourth on 49 minutes and then two minutes later, Connors snaffled an intercept, O’Brien accelerated through a gap and his one-handed offload was beautifully timed to allow Shane Daly to canter over. Ireland’s outhalf tagged on the conversion and at 19-13 Ireland should have kicked on.
They didn’t, as they continued to be beset by simple mistakes, and it led to the fraught ending. There was a nice moment at the end of the match when Niall Saunders, son of former Ireland scrumhalf and captain Rob, and Paul Kiernan, son of former Lions, Ireland and Munster centre Mick, made their debuts together; Young Munster’s Ben Betts had done so earlier.
Scoring sequence: 12 mins: Connon penalty, 3-0; 19: Mantelli penalty, 3-3; Connon penalty, 6-3; 32: Pettinelli try, Mantelli conversion, 6-10; 38: Mantelli penalty, 6-13, Halftime: 6-13. 43: Connon penalty, 9-13; 49: Connon penalty, 12-13; 51: Daly try, Connon conversion, 19-13.
Ireland: B Connon (Newcastle Falcons); H Keenan (Leinster), S Daly (Munster), C O’Brien (Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster); J McPhillips (Ulster), J Poland (Munster); A Porter (Leinster), A McBurney (Ulster), C O’Donnell (Connacht); P Claffey (Connacht), J Ryan (Leinster, capt); C Gallagher (Connacht), W Connors (Leinster), G Jones (Leinster). Replacements: B Betts (Munster) for Connors 40 (+1) mins to halftime; Connors for Betts halftime; T Kennedy (Leinster) for Keenan 67 mins; M Deegan (Leinster) for Jones 67 mins; N Saunders (Harlequins) for Poland 72 mins; P Kiernan (Munster) for Daly 72 mins;
Italy: M Minozzi (Calvisano); P Bruno (Mogliano), R Dal Zilio (Paese), M Zanon (Mogliano), L Sperandio (Mogliano); L Mantelli (Rovigo), V Trussardi (Clermont); D Rimpelli (Rovigo), M Manfredi (Lafert San Dona), M Riccioni (Calvisano, capt); L Krumov (Viadana), S Ortis (Lyon); G Pettinelli (National Academy), D Ciotoli (L’Aquila), G Venditti (Roma). Replacements: N Broglia (Firenze) for Manfredi (half-time); L Masato (Mogliano) for Bruno 55 mins; L Masselli (National Academy) for Ortis 55 mins; M De Marco (National Academy) for Ciotoli 69 mins; G Amendola (Lazio) for Rimpelli 70 mins; G Zilocchi (Elephant Rugby) for Riccioni 72 mins.
Referee: S Grove-White (Scotland)
Yellow card: C O’Donnell (Ireland) 30 mins.