Sunday 23 July 2017

Annett leads first-half blitz as Ireland's U-20s tighten grip on title

John Fallon

Ireland are on course to secure the title after a magnificent first-half performance laid the bedrock for this superb win over Wales at Dubarry Park, Athlone, last night

The Welsh challenge was dismissed with an awesome first-half display which saw Ireland head in at the break leading by 17-0.

The big lead was needed as Wales, the only team to defeat Ireland in Dubarry Park since the U-20 games moved there a few years ago, stepped up several gears after the restart.

Ten points though was as near as they came to bridging the gap until the dying seconds when Wales got their third try after the TMO awarded the effort to winger James Loxton in the right corner.

The game started and finished with tries but it was Ireland who got the dream start when hooker Niall Annett charged down a clearance to touch down inside 15 seconds. James McKinney, who kicked four from four, landed the conversion for the perfect start.

He tacked on a penalty 10 minutes later during an opening period of dominance with No 8 Patrick Butler leading the way with plenty of go-forward ball.

Perfect

It was appropriate that it was Butler who extended the lead after lock David O'Callaghan cut a perfect line through the middle to take from his half-backs and send the big No 8 over for the try of the night. McKinney again added the conversion to make it 17-0 after just 14 minutes.

Wales lost two forwards to injury in the build-up to that try but notions of a rout were dispelled as they managed to mount a series of attacks deep into Irish territory.

But the Irish defence was solid in the execution of tackles and their big lead remained intact until after half-time.

Full-back David Fish hauled the Welsh back into contention six minutes after the restart after a superb break by Kristian Phillips, which Dean Gunter converted.

But their hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed when a superb grubber from McKinney put Eoin Griffin over for their third try after 48 minutes.

Full-back Fish displayed magnificent pace to notch Wales' third try after 53 minutes but that was as near as they came until Loxton got the late consolation score as Ireland continue their march towards nailing the title.

Ireland -- A Conway, D Hudson (E Griffin 34), B Macken, N Spence, T O'Halloran; J McKinney, J Cooney (M Heaney 70), J O'Connell, N Annett (R Byrne 74), S Maguire (B Cagney 56), D O'Callaghan, B Marshall (B Hayes 74), R Ruddock; D Ryan (R O'Sullivan 78), P Butler.

Wales -- D Fish; K Phillips, B John, S Williams, J Loxton; M Jarvis (D Gunter 45), G Davies (R Downes 63); D Watchurst, R Williams, S Gardiner (T Davies 14), M Cook (J Thomas 14), L Peers, M Allen (R Jenkins 70), J Navidi; Toby Faletau.

Ref -- L Cardona (France).

Irish Independent

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