Ireland U20 53 Wales U20 5
It was a thumping victory in content and context as Ireland produced a fine collective performance against a hopelessly outclassed Wales side on the opening weekend of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship. An eight-try haul in Cork underlined their utter dominance in a record-breaking win.
A crowd of 8,000 lapped up an Irish display that was full of endeavour, using the expanse of the Musgrave Park pitch to cut Wales to shreds, whether through the corrosive carrying of the outstanding number eight and man-of-the-match James Culhane, props Jack Boyle and Scott Wilson, hooker James McCormick and captain, Reuben Crothers.
The pack was superb to a man, unyielding in the scrum and precise and powerful in terms of the lineout maul. Conor O'Tighearnaigh, Mark Morrissey and James McNabney were also conspicuously excellent.
Given a perfect platform, the Irish backs got to the edges with ease, Ben Brownlee and Fionn Gibbons powerful in the midfield, while Chay Mullins was a constant threat: the only downside was a first-half leg injury suffered by fullback Patrick Campbell.
Wales were ponderous, ill disciplined and ridiculously narrow in defence, all of which contributed to their demise. Twice they had to play a man light following yellow cards for Ollie Andrew and Joe Peard, a deficit they could ill afford.
It would have been reasonable to expect an acclimatisation process for a group of young players who didn’t get the benefit of the traditional tempering process of age-grade representative rugby over the past couple of seasons. However, it was a remarkably brief adjustment as Ireland found their playing rhythm very quickly after soaking up early Welsh pressure.
Wales had six players from last season: Cardiff flanker and captain, Alex Mann, hooker Efan Daniel, tighthead prop Nathan Evans, secondrow Peard, scrumhalf Harri Williams and centre Eddie James. They also dwarfed Ireland physically but the speed, cohesion and technical excellence of the home side particularly up front, make light of any issues.
Outhalf Charlie Tector kicked an early penalty and then on 13 minutes Ireland registered the first try of the match from right wing Mullins. Brownlee and Tector put Campbell in space and he released Mullins; the Bristol Bears wing demonstrated superb awareness to step inside the corner-flagging Welsh cover and use his strength to dot down.
There was an element of porous Welsh defence and they were certainly too narrow in that instance. The visitors were also guilty of poor discipline, conceding nine penalties in the opening 21 minutes. It eventually cost them a player, left wing Andrews received a yellow card for a slap down in the tackle and within a minute Ireland had claimed a second try.
Tector kicked a penalty to the corner, hooker James McCormick rescued a loose ball and from there scrumhalf Matthew Devine scooted past some insipid tackling to score. Crothers was held up over the line according to the television match official Ian Tempest; there was no evidence of a grounding from the footage.
However the TMO’s next involvement grated as Mullins looked to have scored a second try. Ireland number eight Culhane charged, through a parting red sea of defenders.
McCormick was adjudged to have impeded Peard on Tempest’s intervention; it was the softest brush in contact terms and to be honest the Irish hooker was entitled to stand his ground. It was a poor decision.
The Welsh respite was short-lived as Boyle, centre Fionn Gibbons and McCormick all made significant metres through contact and following a superb clearout from Culhane two metres from the Welsh line, Devine popped the ball to Morrissey who plunged over. Tector added the conversion to give the home side a thoroughly deserved 22-0 interval lead.
Wales conceded another penalty 14 seconds after the restart, the upshot, a bonus-point try for Ireland with Crothers the deserving beneficiary following some muscular close-range sallies from his team-mates. His backrow colleague James NcNabney followed his example four minutes later, burrowing over for a try, following a fine grubber and chase from Shane Mallon.
Ireland were now filleting Wales at will – the visitors lost a second player to the bin in Peard – their speed of thought and deed was too much for the beleaguered visitors. Mullins grabbed a second try which Tector converted, his last act, as Ireland head coach Richie Murphy rang the changes.
The home side’s energy and enthusiasm didn’t dissipate nor initially did their cohesion, McCormick’s last act in a superb performance, was to flop over the line from a well-crafted and executed rolling maul. At that point Ireland led 46-0 and had yet another try chalked off from an infringement.
However, Brownlee capped his performance with a try just before the final whistle, demonstrating his leg drive in contact to power past a couple of tacklers.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 3 mins: Tector pen, 3-0; 13: Mullins try, 8-0; 22: Devine try, Tector con, 15-0; 33: Morrissey try, Tector con, 22-0. Half-time: 22-0. 41: Crothers try, Tector con, 29-0; 45: McNabney try, 34-0; 51: Mullins try, Tector con, 41-0; 61: McCormick try, 46-0; 74: Andrew try, 46-5; 79: Brownlee try, Butler con, 53-5.
IRELAND: P Campbell (Young Munster); C Mullins (Bristol Bears), F Gibbons (UCD), B Brownlee (Blackrock), S Mallon (UCD); C Tector (Lansdowne), M Devine (Corinthians); J Boyle (UCD), J McCormick (Ballymena), S Wilson (QUB); C O'Tighearnaigh (UCD), M Morrissey (UCD); J McNabney (Ballymena), R Crothers (Ballynahinch, capt), J Culhane (UCD).
Replacements: A King (Clontarf) for Campbell (35 mins); O Michel (Lansdowne) for Boyle (49); E Coughlan (Shannon) for Devine, T Butler (Garryowen) for Tector (both 53); R McGuire (UCD) for Wilson, A McNamee (Malone) for Morrissey (59); R O'Sullivan (Highfield) for McNabney (61); J Hanlon (Ballynahinch) for McCormick (62); Tector for Mullins (HIA, 64); Devine for Tector (73).
WALES: C Winnett (Cardiff); H Houston (Ospreys), B Bradley (Harlequins), E James (Scarlets) O Andrew (Dragons); D Edwards (Ospreys), H Williams (Scarlets); J Cowell (Cardiff University), E Daniel (Cardiff), N Evans (Cardiff); J Peard (Dragons), L Jones (Ospreys); A Mann (Cardiff, capt), Ethan Fackrell (Cardiff), B Moa (Dragons).
Replacements: T Cowan (Bath) for Mann (HIA, 21-31 mins); M Veness (Ealing Trailfinders) for Daniel (32); R Barratt (Cardiff) for Cowell, J Hawkins (Ospreys) for Bradley (both 45); Cowan for Moa (49); B Williams (Ospreys) for Jones (55); M Lloyd (Dragons) for Williams (59); Ellis Fackrell (Ospreys) for Winnett (67).
Yellow cards: O Andrews (21 mins); J Peard(46).
Referee: J Zussman (Canada)