McPhillips pulls strings as Ireland storm into world final
Ireland U20 37-7 Argentina U20
Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30
For once, an Irish World Cup dream has been enhanced rather than destroyed by meeting Argentina and the confidence Nigel Carolan's men will get from the manner of this awesome display could be enough to propel them to silverware.
The old, and indeed, new fears about meeting Argentina on the world stage were all there. Would Ireland have a pack to deal with the traditional Argentinian scrum? And how would they deal with this new direct style which destroyed the senior team in last year's World Cup?
But Nigel Carolan's men dealt with it all and more. Their pre-match belief that they had the edge on a pack which was 3kg a man heavier was fully justified, and the sight of a Los Pumitas scrum going backwards at a rate of knots in the second-half told its own story.
The threat from this new breed of young Puma came out wide and through the direct channels, but the homework was done and it was Ireland who dominated these sectors.
They had it all but wrapped up by the half-hour mark when they raced into a 21-0 lead and while Argentina scored before the break it did little to rattle an Irish side who have now won seven in a row since losing their opening games in the Six Nations against Wales and France.
The road to recovery started by beating England in Newcastle - the crowning glory could now come against the old enemy on Saturday evening.
"We are going to have a really good chance," said Carolan. "It's a good team and I wouldn't write this team off at all. I think there is more in this side.
"There's great belief and great confidence in knowing what they are doing. It's where they deserve to be. It's what dreams are made of but I think we can do well on Saturday."
Ireland blew Los Pumitas away with a three-try salvo inside half and hour and after Argentina hit back before the break, they took control again and finished the job in style.
It was devastating stuff, backs and forwards on top in every position and linking superbly and an even bigger margin would not have flattered them.
"That is the kind of performance that you need when you get to this stage of the tournament. But the lads stood up, the set-piece was really good. We were really good in attack and showed great character in defence," added Carolan.
Captain James Ryan led a pack where Max Deegan, Greg Jones and Andrew Porter were superb; half-backs Stephen Kerins and Johnny McPhillips dominated.
Full-back Jacob Stockdale crowned another big display with two tries, with Deegan breaking from deep in between and Argentina were cut open by wingers Hugo Keenan and Matthew Byrne.
McPhillips, seamlessly slotting into the No 10 shirt following the injury to Bill Johnston, controlled matters and kept putting daylight between the sides with another top-class kicking display.
And after Argentina prop Santiago Pulella was red-carded for a headbutt on Sean O'Connor, Shane Daly intercepted a pass to score Ireland's fourth try.
Now the focus will quickly switch to Saturday's final, their fifth game in 19 days. But while Carolan acknowledged it is a big milestone for these young players, he is determined they will approach it the same as any other game this season.
"Our preparation on and off the field has been the exact same for every game. We have been very much a one-game team," he said.
"We are going to try and keep that focus and nothing is going to change in terms of our recovery, our preparation, our analysis. We are just trying to keep the same process there so it feels the same for the lads.
"Obviously it is going to be a big occasion but hopefully we can just enjoy it as much as we can and make an imprint on the game."
Ireland had heroes all over the pitch but once again No 8 Deegan produced an outstanding display and he can't wait for Saturday's showdown.
"It was an incredible performance and it was one we were really looking forward to and we got off to a great start, something that we hadn't done in the previous games. It just continued through the game and we are really happy with it," he said.
"We said that at half-time, we were unlucky to let them in. They had a nice grubber to get a try. But we said that at half-time that first score was crucial, whether it be three points or a try we just knew we had to get it."
And having already defeated Six Nations grand slam winners Wales and reigning world champions New Zealand, the task facing Ireland on Saturday became apparent in the other semi-final when England thrashed South Africa 39-17.
But world titles were never meant to be won easily.