Ireland U-20s fired up for history shot at Baby Blacks
Ireland U-20 24 Scotland U-20 20
Published 08/06/2015 | 02:30
Could this be the team that finally does it? Could this be the bunch who buries decades of hardship, heavy defeats and hard-luck stories and become the first Irish men's side to nail a win over New Zealand?
It will be a tall order for Nigel Carolan's men but they have set themselves up for a right crack at the most prolific winners of World Rugby U-20 Championship and will go into Wednesday's pool decider in Viadana with absolutely nothing to lose.
Last summer's 17-14 win by the Irish women's team in a pool match in the World Cup in France remains the only victory by an Irish side in a 15-a-side match against New Zealand.
For that to change this Irish side will need to up their set-piece game and secure their own ball more comprehensively in scrum and lineout, and will also need to show a bigger return on finishing chances.
But they have now won two tight matches and while there is a danger they could have burned up their quota of luck, this is a side, for a change where most Irish teams are concerned, who seem to enjoy a generous chunk of good fortune.
Of course, you make your own luck as well and as Scotland butchered several gilt-edged scoring chances with knock-ons a metre or so from the line, the fact that inevitably there was an Irishman in close attendance was a factor.
Ireland, too, squandered chances by spilling ball but handling was made difficult by the greasy ball in serious humidity and temperatures topping 30 degrees throughout.
At least Wednesday's clash with the Baby Blacks will be at the cooler time of 8.30pm.
New Zealand, too, have won both their games but while they hammered Scotland 68-10, they looked far from invincible in scoring a penalty two minutes from time to break Argentine hearts for the second time in just four days.
It was small consolation to Los Pumitas that the crowd in Calvisano gave them a standing ovation after their 32-29 loss.
Irish coach Carolan said they would take encouragement from that game, but he plans to concentrate on his own men. They don't intend to train between the games, just having a captain's run to allow bodies recover from another gruelling test.
"We wanted to be in contention going into the final pool match and that's where we are," said Carolan. "We know we have areas we can improve on and we will need to improve on if we are to have a go at New Zealand.
"It may have been tight but we have put ourselves in a position to qualify for the semi-finals.
"That was the target when we saw the fixtures, make sure we were in contention going into the final pool game.
"It will be a big challenge but these are good players and they have won two games and still have plenty of room for improvement.
"We will be having a crack at New Zealand, no doubt about that."
The quality of Garry Ringrose is key to their hopes and his centre partnership with Sam Arnold was the springboard to success on Saturday after Scotland initially laid siege to the Irish line but came away empty-handed.
The line-breaking ability of Ringrose set up Billy Dardis for the opening try after 12 minutes and by the 32nd minute they were 15-0 to the good with Ringrose again heavily involved before flanker Conor Oliver spotted a gap and got on over.
It was 15-3 to Ireland at the break and Joey Carbery got his second penalty shortly after the restart but instead of pushing on and securing a bonus point, Ireland found themselves on the back foot for most of the remainder of the game.
Scotland, inevitably, cut the gap when Lewis Carmichael got over to leave five between them in the final quarter but Ireland kept their nerve.
Carbery got another penalty and the hero against Argentina, Tomas Quinlan, sealed it before the Scots struck for a late consolation try from Ruaridh Knott.
Ireland - B Dardis; C Gaffney, G Ringrose, S Arnold (J Stockdale 61), S Fitzgerald; J Carbery (T Quinlan 67), N McCarthy (capt) (C Rock 67); A Porter (L O'Connor 63), S McNulty (Z McCall 52), O Heffernan (C O'Donnell 52); D O'Connor, A Thompson (J Dwan 63); J Murphy, C Oliver, L Dow (N Timoney 52).
Scotland - R Howarth; R Nairn, T Galbraith (R Galloway 61), P Kelly, A Coombes; B Kinghorn, G Horne (A Davidson 57); M McCallum (R Graham 46), S James (R Graham 49), Z Fagerson (J Owlett 78); S Cummings (B Vellacott 57), L Carmichael; N Irvine-Hess, J Ritchie (capt) (R Knott 28-37, 40), M Bradbury (R Hutchinson 32).
Ref - W Houston (Australia)