Ireland under-20s beaten at the death by resilient England

Noel McNamara’s side will now face New Zealand to determine seeding for next time

Ireland’s David Ryan is tackled during the World Junior Championship match against England. Photo: Pablo Gasparini/Inpho

Ireland’s David Ryan is tackled during the World Junior Championship match against England. Photo: Pablo Gasparini/Inpho

 

Ireland Under-20 23 England Under-20 30

A try in injury time from England replacement Tom Willis decided this Under-20 World Cup contest. It was a cruel blow for an Ireland team that clawed their way back from 23-9 down to level the match with nine minutes to go and a man advantage.

Unfortunately mistakes cost Ireland field position initially and England, to their credit when down to 14 players for the third time in the match controlled the ball and created the match winning score. There was so much to admire in the way that Noel McNamara’s side have played all season; the spirit, the character to go with the talent.

Ireland will now face New Zealand in a game which will decide the team that finishes seventh or eighth and will determine their seeding for next year’s tournament.

The pitch was a bog, more mud than grass, the cloying underfoot conditions treacherous, a hugely energy sapping environment and certainly not conducive to running rugby. Ireland will wonder how they trailed at the interval as they dominated territory, possession, the lineout – they stole six English throws in total – and played against 14 English players for 20-minutes of the half.

England’s number eight Ted Hill got a yellow card for lifting Ireland captain Charlie Ryan above the horizontal on six minutes and England loosehead Kai Owen was sent to the sin bin for a high hit on Michael Milne, the mitigation that the officials used given that it was shoulder on head, was that the Irish player dipped down.

Ireland just didn’t use the ball well enough on occasion and their discipline at rucks allowed England to relieve the pressure. Both teams understandably opted for the aerial route; it made for a fractured first half in terms of any cohesion or continuity.

Ben Healy kicked two penalties for Ireland, English left wing Josh Hodge responded in kind. A second Irish knock-on in a couple of minutes, again under no pressure, was severely punished, the scrappy passage of play that ensued included a couple of missed tackles that allowed Hodge room on the outside and the wing stepped inside the cover for a try, to which he added the conversion.

At 13-6 England could scarcely believe their good fortune but they did provide the one moment of fluency in the half. Healy’s kicking was excellent apart from one missed penalty and he along with Craig Casey turned England intelligently but mistakes and indiscipline undid much of the good work of the Irish pack, spearheaded by the excellent Ryan Baird.

England cranked up the scrum pressure in the second half and it provided a 10-point haul, the first occasion another penalty for Hodge, the second as a preamble to a try from Sam Maunder; Ireland left yet more errors in the build-up. Dylan Tierney-Martin received a yellow card for a high tackle on Hodge after 57 minutes and with his side 13-points adrift the outcome was effectively decided.

Ostensibly the only thing left for dispute was England’s final margin of victory but as this young Irish team has shown all year, they refuse to lie down or kowtow to what appears bleak circumstances.

They took the game to England and launched a full front assault through the pack on the English line and they were eventually rewarded on 70-minutes, shortly after Tierney-Martin’s return, when Jonathan Wren showed his excellent footwork to score in the corner. Healy kicked a superb conversion to make it 23-16 to England.

Within 60 seconds Ireland has another try, Clontarf’s Brian Deeny, a recent arrival in Argentina having torn ankle ligaments in training just before the party left for the tournament, was quick to realise that English scrumhalf Maunder was about to box-kick. He timed the charge down beautifully, re-gathered the loose ball and race 45 metres to score a try. Healy’s conversion levelled the scores at 23-23.

A couple of lineouts went astray, England, down to 14-men for a third time, worked their way down the pitch, and from a scrum Willis eventually barged over for the decisive score in injury time.

Scoring sequence – 10 mins: Healy penalty, 3-0; 17: Hodge penalty, 3-3; 20: Healy penalty, 6-3; 33: Hodge penalty, 6-6; 35: Hodge try, Hodge conversion, 6-13. Half-time: 6-13. 43: Healy penalty, 9-13; 46: Hodge penalty, 9-16; 54: Maunder try, Hodge conversion, 9-23; 70: Wren try, Healy conversion, 16-23; 71: Deeny try, Healy conversion, 23-23; 80: Willis try, Hodge conversion, 23-30.

Ireland U-20: J Flannery (Shannon); A O’Sullivan (UCD), L Turner (Dublin University), D Ryan (UCD), J Wren (Cork Constitution); B Healy (Garryowen), C Casey (Shannon); M Milne (UCD), D Tierney-Martin (Corinthians), C Ward (Clontarf); C Ryan (UCD, capt), T Ahern (Shannon); R Baird (Dublin University), R Watters (S t Mary’s College), A Allison (Ballymena). #

Replacements: Josh Wycherley (Young Munster) for Milne half-time; T Clarkson (Dublin University) for Ward half-time; A Kernohan (QUB) for O’Sullivan half-time; N Murray (Buccaneers) for C Ryan (HIA) 42-51 mins; D Adamson (Clontarf) for Tierney Martin 57-67 mins; B Deeny (Clontarf) for Allison 61 mins;

England U-20: T de Glanville (Bath); O Sleightholme (Northampton), F Dingwall (Northampton, capt), C Redpath (Sale Sharks), J Hodge (Newcastle); M Vunipola (Saracens), S Maunder (Exeter Chiefs); K Owen (Worcester), W Capon (Bristol), J Heyes (Leicester Tigers); J Kpoku (Saracens), A Coles (Northampton); R Capstick (Exeter Chiefs), A Hinkley (Gloucester), T Hill (Worcester).

Replacements: O Atkins (Gloucester) for Sleightholme 30 mins; Sleightholme for Atkins 40 mins; L James (Sale Sharks) for de Glanville 44 mins; Atkins for Owen 53 mins; T Willis (Wasps) for Hinkley 53 mins; N Dolly (Sale Sharks) for Capon 59 mins; R Tuima (Exeter Chiefs) for Kpoku 71 mins; O Fox (Yorkshire) for Maunder 76 mins.

Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)

Yellow cards: T Hill (England) 6 mins; K Owen (England) 27 mins; D Tierney-Martin (Ireland) 57 mins; R Tuima (England) 74 mins.

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