Saturday 24 February 2018

Clinical England punish Ireland

Ireland U-20 14 England U-20 19

Stephen Fitzgerald, Ireland, scores his side's first try against England
Stephen Fitzgerald, Ireland, scores his side's first try against England
Stephen Fitzgerald, Ireland, is tackled by Jack Walker, left, and Joe Batley, England
Garry Ringrose, Ireland, breaks through against England
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It was billed as two electric back-lines going head-to-head on Donnybrook's 4G surface and it didn't disappoint, but ultimately Ireland were given a valuable lesson by a ruthlessly clinical English side.

The world champions arrived in Dublin for the first time since 2005 but despite dominating the second half both territorially and in possession, Nigel Carolan's youngsters were punished for not making their dominance count on the scoreboard.

Ireland led 9-6 at the break thanks to three Ross Byrne penalties but on the few occasions that England visited Ireland's 22 in the second half, they came away with crucial points.

Byrne had a mixed evening, missing three shots at goal as well as making a costly mistake in the build-up to England's first try, but his quickly-taken cross-field penalty should have created the game's opening touchdown.

Stephen Fitzgerald's knock-on spoiled would have been a cleverly worked score; that mistake summed up Ireland's frustrating performance.

Ireland came into the game as the only side having won both of their opening two games but England's victory puts them right back into contention for the title.

Byrne and England's James Mitchell had sent penalty attempts wide inside the opening five minutes before the Ireland out-half put the hosts in front with a well-struck kick from almost the exact spot he had earlier missed from.

The first glimpse of Ireland's fluid back-line resulted in a penalty that Byrne again fired over, but Mitchell responded shortly after.

Byrne extended Ireland's lead with a third first-half penalty but had the referee allowed Ireland their due advantage, they would have surely scored in the corner, having had a two-man overlap.

England flanker Will Owen was sent to the sin-bin for not releasing but much to Carolan's frustration, Ireland's indiscipline immediately allowed Mitchell to cancel out Byrne's penalty.

Ireland No 8 Lorcan Dow followed Owen to the bin as Ireland had to withstand a barrage of English pressure but they held out to go into the interval 9-6 in front.

Byrne's poor kick was punished four minutes after the restart when England replacement full-back Piers O'Conor - a former Ireland U-19 player - collected the ball and screeched past Jack Owens as if he wasn't there to run in unopposed from 65 metres.

England thought they were in for a second try five minutes later but after the referee went to the TMO, O'Conor's push on Zack McCall was spotted and Ireland were awarded the penalty.

That swung the momentum back in Ireland's favour and Byrne and Garry Ringrose combined beautifully to put Fitzgerald over in the corner.

McCall made ground through the middle with a strong carry before the ball was recycled wide and Ringrose showed his class to dummy an English defender before popping a perfectly weighted pass for Fitzgerald to score.

Byrne's touchline conversion came back off the post and when a powerful English push won a penalty against the head, Mitchell was on hand to knock over the long-range penalty to pull his side level.

Joe Marchant, who scored a hat-trick against Italy last time out, punished some weak defending when he brushed aside Ringrose's poor attempted tackle to dot down as England re-took the lead.

Ireland continued to hammer at the English defence but they couldn't find a way through. Cian Romaine knocked on at the base of a ruck to bring an end to their push for a late try.

Ireland's Grand Slam hopes are dashed and while the championship remains a realistic goal, lessons must be learned from last night's display.

Ireland - B Dardis; J Owens, G Ringrose, S Arnold (H Brewer 57), S Fitzgerald; R Byrne, N McCarthy (c) (J Cullen 67); J Loughman (M Lagan 67), Z McCall, O Heffernan (C O'Donnell 50); D O'Connor (C Romaine 50), A Thompson; J Murphy, R Moloney (N Timoney 61), L Dow.

England - A Morris (P O'Conor h-t); G Perkins, J Marchant, N Tompkins, H Packman; O Bryant (W Homer 60), J Mitchell; E Genge (S Adeniran-Olule 67), J Walker (J Innard 67), C Parker (P Hill 52); K Treadwell, C Ewels; J Batley (C Beckett 52), W Owen (S Skinner 72), J Chisholm.

ref - T Charabas (France)

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