Ryan's boys punish Scotland's wayward time-keeping
Ireland U-20 26-18 Scotland U-20
Published 19/03/2016 | 02:30
It took Ireland a couple of games to settle into their stride in this campaign but once they did they impressed, and last night's victory at Donnybrook meant that they finished with three consecutive wins.
With just three players from last year's squad featuring this season, it was always going to take time for some players to find their feet at this level and against a strong Scottish side, they managed to out-muscle them, particularly at scrum time.
Skipper James Ryan has been Ireland's standout player in the tournament and he gave another fine display in defence but the likes of Will Connors and Cillian Gallagher have also impressed.
Scotland will rue a costly error shortly before the break as it allowed Ireland a way back into the game and they followed it up with a further two tries in nine second-half minutes.
Adam Hastings had kicked Scotland into a 6-0 lead after quarter of an hour but Ireland responded well after what was their first real foray into the visitors' territory.
Having declined the three points on offer, Ireland went for the corner and their bravery paid off. Gallagher gave clean ball off the top of the lineout and Ryan carried just short of the line but the impressive Adam McBurney powered his way over.
Brett Connon slotted the easy conversion to put Ireland into a 7-6 lead but they were pegged back after half an hour when Scotland responded with a try of their own.
Ireland looked to run the ball from deep inside their own 22 and Johnny McPhillips' pass looked to have put Jacob Stockdale away but the referee called it as forward and play was brought back. The out-half's pass looked flat at best and it was soon punished even further.
Stephen Ainslie carried well in midfield before Hugh Fraser's clever reverse-pass found Darcy Graham, who had darted off the left wing to score. Hastings' conversion put the Scots back in front.
Just as it looked like Scotland would see out the half with a six-point advantage, they made a crucial error that allowed Ireland back into the game.
With the stadium clock showing that the allotted 40 minutes had been played, Hastings booted the ball into touch but there were in fact five minutes left to play according to the referee's watch.
Ireland's lineout again worked well and the ball went through the hands in the backline for Stockdale, who had held his width, to score in the corner as Ireland trailed by just a point (13-12) at the break.
Scotland were incensed at the stadium clock mishap and presumably they made that known to the referee at half-time because for the second half, it was switched off.
Scotland's fortunes didn't change, however, and two converted Ireland tries in nine minutes made sure of the win.
Connors, who was been excellent throughout the tournament, found a gap in the defence after Ryan and Stephen Kerins had both gone close.
The Scottish defence began to tire and Ireland took full advantage. Andrew Porter had a huge impact from the bench and the loosehead prop's power allowed the scrum to become an even more potent weapon.
The pressure eventually told on the Scottish scrum and the referee went under the posts and awarded a penalty try and also sent Callum Sheldon to the sin-bin. Connon was on hand to convert both tries and suddenly Ireland were 26-13 to the good.
Scotland centre George Taylor crossed for a fine individual try with 12 minutes left to play but the Ireland defence comfortably held out for a third place finish and with it ensured that they head to the Junior World Cup in June with plenty of momentum behind them.
Ireland U-20s - B Connon; H Keenan, S Daly (P Kiernan 77), C O'Brien, J Stockdale; J McPhillips (M Byrne 77), S Kerins (J Poland 77); J Bollard (A Porter h/t), A McBurney, C O'Donnell (A Coyle 71); S O'Connor (P Claffey 51), J Ryan (capt) (H Kean 77); C Gallagher, W Connors, G Jones (M Deegan 51).
Scotland U-20s - T Galbraith (capt); D Graham, R Hutchinson, G Taylor, B Robbins (R Nairn h/t) (R Dawson 46); A Hastings (R Howarth h/t), H Fraser; M McCallum (G Thornton 67), J Kerr (L Anderson 57), C Sheldon; C Hunter-Hill, S Ainslie; S Burnside, M Smith (L Scott 25, H Bain 55, A Nicol 58-67), A Miller.
REF - D Jones (WRU)