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U20s edge closer to title with Welsh win

Ireland's U20s are on course to secure the Six Nations title after a magnificent first-half performance laid the bedrock for a superb 24-17 win over Wales in Athlone last night.

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

The big lead was needed as Wales, the only team to defeat Ireland in Dubarry Park since the U20 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 TV match official 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 touchdown 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 No8 Patrick Butler leading the way with plenty of go-forward ball.

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 No8 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 Butler's 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.

Welsh fullback David Fish hauled them 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 Ireland's third try after 48 minutes.

Fish displayed magnificent pace to notch Wales' second try after 53 minutes but that was as near as they came until Loxton got the late consolation touchdown as Ireland continue their march towards sealing the title.

Meanwhile, their female counterparts also recorded a memorable 18-3 Six Nations victory over the Welsh in Ashbourne last night.

The visitors led by three points after the opening exchanges and appeared in control until Niamh Briggs set off on a majestic run from just inside her own half on 15 minutes.

The Welsh back line simply couldn't get close enough to her to make a tackle and she touched down to put the hosts into a 5-3 lead.

Ireland continued to push forward and scrum-half Tania Rosser forced her way over in the 58th minute.

Briggs and lock Joy Neville then added the gloss to the scoreline, with a well-taken penalty from the fullback and a powerful try from Neville in the dying minutes.