Ireland begin Under-20 Six Nations defence with win over Scotland

Richie Murphy’s team scored 24 unanswered points after the sending off of Harri Morris

Ireland’s Shane Jennings scores his side’s third try of the game during the Under 20’s Six Nations match at the Cardiff Arms Park. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA

Ireland’s Shane Jennings scores his side’s third try of the game during the Under 20’s Six Nations match at the Cardiff Arms Park. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA

 

Ireland 38 Scotland 7

The final score-line flattered Ireland a tad, the sending off of Scotland flanker Harri Morris, less than 60 seconds after the interval, emphatically unspooling a contest, knotted by excellence and error in equal measure, a definitive moment in this opening match in the Six Nations Championship at the Arms Park.

Ireland led 14-7 at the time but playing with a man advantage completely dominated the remainder of the game, tagging on 24 unanswered points; it could have been a great deal more with a little more composure and accuracy, albeit acknowledging a number of factors that slightly undermined a cohesion that will come through match minutes.

Ireland coach Richie Murphy will have been pleased with aspects of the performance, the scrum, led by the outstanding twin pillars Temi Lasisi and Sam Illo, who also carried and tackled powerfully, and secondrow Harry Sheridan, whose work-rate matched that of their outstanding captain Alex Kendellen; the latter deservedly picking up the man of the match award.

Oisin McCormack excelled in everything he did, so too Alex Soroka prior to injury while Mark Morrissey and Ronan Loughnane, despite giving away ballast to their opposite numbers, were as effective as the other members of the Irish pack. Ireland’s lineout and lineout maul was excellent, considering the height and weight discrepancy, while acknowledging that they struggled to defend the Scots in that aspect of the game.

Cathal Forde was superb in the first half, as was his midfield partner Shane Jennings - even before he moved to the wing - blossoming after the interval, while fullback Jamie Osborne oozed class in every action. The bench provided energy and impact, particularly Jack Boyle and Donnacha Byrne.

Ireland enjoyed a perfect start, scoring a try through blindside flanker Soroka on three minutes, a score underpinned by an excellent set piece launch and a fine line from openside flanker McCormack. The Scots were brave and resilient in their goal-line defence but Soroka, who had won the initial lineout, powered over.

Scotland were largely gifted a foothold in the match through a series of basic errors by their opponents and a lack of discipline that saw Ireland concede several penalties. Scottish outhalf Cameron Scott pushed his team up the touchline on foot of a couple of penalties until they were within striking distance several metres from the Irish line.

Playing with the benefit of a penalty advantage, Scott plumped for a grubber kick, which centre Elliot Gourlay scooped up and dived over the line; the outhalf’s conversion left the side’s level after the first quarter of the game.

Execution

Mistakes on both sides were understandable given the lack of match practice, so too the lack of cohesion from what are essentially scratch sides but the respective coaches might have been less forgiving of periodic poor execution under minimal pressure.

Ireland regained the lead in rather fortuitous circumstances on 35 minutes. When Cathal Forde’s attempted cut-out pass inadvertently ricocheted off the face of Jamie Osborne, McCormack was quickest to react and after the Irish flanker hacked the ball over the Scottish line, he was prematurely tackled as he attempted to touch down by Michael Gray.

The upshot following a review of the incident was a penalty try and a yellow card for the Scottish wing. Ireland’s capacity for the self-inflicted wounds resurfaced when Conor McKee’s attempted clearance was charged down, handing Scotland a five metre scrum: Soroka and McCormack rescued their team in combining to force a goal-line turnover to leave Ireland 14-7 ahead at the interval.

The second half was less than a minute old when the previously excellent Morris received a straight red card for tackling Osborne in the air. It was the correct decision. The Scottish flanker was immediately contrite in acknowledging the reckless challenge but referee Gianluca Gnecchi was left with no option. It largely smoothed Ireland’s passage to the final whistle, effectively ending the game as a contest.

Ireland took advantage immediately, tighthead prop Sam Illo forced his way over for a try. A minor quibble over the next 10-minutes the sheer number of handling errors, many basic, as Ireland managed to undermine decent attacking platforms.

However on foot of wholesale changes, Ireland rediscovered their attacking brio, first through the bonus point try from captain, Kendellen following another powerful lineout maul and another from centre Shane Jennings, which was a homily to a simple draw and pass philosophy with the Connacht player tagging on a dummy for good measure as he accelerated away for a fine try.

Corkery kicked a fine touchline conversion. Jennings had a second try chalked off for a knock-on after a fine bit of individual skill but Ireland were careless and loose subsequently, failing to convert several try scoring opportunities until Osborne, fittingly, got the reward for a superb performance by forcing his way over for Ireland’s sixth of the afternoon. Corkery’s conversion proved to be the final score of the contest.

Scoring sequence - 3 mins: Soroka try, Humphreys conversion, 7-0; 20 mins: Gourlay try, Scott conversion, 7-7; 35 mins: penalty try, 14-7. Half-time: 14-7. 41 mins: Illo try, 19-7; 55 mins: Kendellen try, 24-7; 61 mins: Jennings try, Corkery conversion, 31-7; 78 mins: Osborne try, Corkery conversion, 38-7.

Ireland: J Osborne (Leinster); B Moxham (Ulster), S Jennings (Connacht), C Forde (Connacht), J O’Connor (Leinster); J Humphreys (Ulster), C McKee (Ulster); T Lasisi (Leinster), R Loughnane (Leinster), S Illo (Leinster); M Morrissey (Leinster), H Sheridan (Ulster); A Soroka (Leinster), O McCormack (Connacht), A Kendellen (Munster, capt).

Replacements: T Corkery (Leinster) for Humphreys (HIA) 28 mins; R Crothers (Ulster) for Soroka 46 mins; C Cosgrave (Leinster) for O’Connor 54 mins; J Boyle (Leinster) for Lasisi 57 mins; M Donnelly (Munster) for Illo 57 mins; D Byrne (Connacht) for McCormack 57 mins; E de Buitlear (Connacht) for Loughnane 60 mins; W Reilly (Leinster) for McKee 63 mins.

Scotland: O Melville (Glasgow Warriors); F Callaghan (Glasgow Warriors), S King (Edinburgh), E Gourlay (Sale Sharks), M Gray (Glasgow Warriors); C Scott (Edinburgh), M Redpath (Newcastle University); C Lamberton (Edinburgh), P Harrison (Edinburgh), O Frostick (Ealing Trailfinders); M Williamson (Glasgow Warriors), A Samuel (Glasgow Warriors, capt); A Smeaton (Cambridge University), Harri Morris (Southern Knights), Ben Muncaster (Edinburgh).

Replacements: G Breese (Stirling Wolves) for Frostick half-time; R Tait (Southern Knights) for Callaghan 45 mins; E McVicker (Melrose) for Redpath 46 mins; J Drummond (Ayrshire Bulls) for Harrison 49 mins; M Jones (Boroughmuir Bears) for Lamberton 49 mins; C Townsend (Ayrshire Bulls) for Scott 58 mins; O Leatherbarrow (Exeter University) for Smeaton 61 mins; E Ferrie (Glasgow Hawks) for Samuel 72 mins; Frostick for Breese (HIA) 78 mins.

Referee: G Gnecchi (Italy)

Yellow card: M Gray (Scotland) 35 mins.

Red card: H Morris (Scotland) 40 mins.

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