Irish dig deep to set up huge Baby Blacks meeting
Ireland 24-20 Scotland
Ireland were made dig deep, but they responded to the challenge in superb fashion to set up an intriguing top-of-the-pool encounter with New Zealand next Wednesday night.
The prize on offer will be a place in the semi-finals of the World Rugby U-20 Championships, but to achieve, Ireland will need to get their first ever win over the Baby Blacks.
That will take an awesome performance, but Nigel Carolan's men have now come out the right side of two tight results and will have nothing to lose. Ireland have never won all three pool matches in the U-20 world championship, but in this group, now have a chance to make a serious bit of history.
Ireland had never lost to Scotland at the U-20 World Championships and all three victories prior to this were achieved with big margins. But Scotland's 17-10 win in the final game of the Six Nations ensured this would be an entirely different matter, with Sean Lineen's men keen to regain some pride after suffering a 68-10 hammering against New Zealand on Tuesday evening. Ireland, showing four changes from the side which edged out Argentina 18-16 in the opening game, knew that victory would keep them in contention to equal last year's best-ever fourth finish.
Both sides were heartened before the game to get confirmation that there would be water breaks as they tried to deal with the 31 degrees heat and heavy humidity. The Scottish replacements' bench used garden umbrellas for shade during the game, but on the field both teams belied the testing conditions to start at a frenetic pace, with the Scots hammering the Irish line in the opening minutes.
But a turnover scrum and three penalties to the corner yielded nothing for Scotland as Ireland defended their line superbly. Surviving that early onslaught gave Ireland a huge psychological advantage and Scotland, brittle after the nine-try loss to the Baby Blacks, were clearly rattled.
Ireland finally got a foothold and the first of several moments of magic from Garry Ringrose created the opening try, with a superb break which put Billy Dardis away and the Naas native made it over in the left corner after 12 minutes. Joey Carbery was unable to add the points, but he did extend the lead at the end of the first quarter when he landed a penalty from 25 metres on the left.
The sweaty conditions led to a lot of knock-ons, with Scotland particularly guilty, and it was no surprise when Ireland got over for a second try. Ringrose was again involved, stopped short after Dardis was also deprived in the right corner, but Ireland kept recycling and flanker Conor Oliver stopped an opening and dived over.
Carbery converted from the right to make it 15-3 after 31 minutes, but Scotland hit back and got off the mark when George Horne, brother of Scottish international Peter, made no mistake with a penalty in front of the posts. Ireland were unlucky not to be further ahead when they pinched a lineout inside the Scottish 22, but loosehead Andrew Porter knocked on with the line at his mercy and it stayed 15-3 at the interval.
Carbery extended the lead with a penalty just after the break, but Horne cancelled this within two minutes with a similar kick. Ireland were again forced to defend for a sustained period, but they weathered the storm, although it took a despairing effort by Sam Arnold to deny Ruaridh Knott a certain try when his tackle was enough to force a knock-on half a metre from the posts.
But the pressure eventually told and Scotland were rewarded for going to the corner after 61 minutes when they got the drive on and lock Lewis Carmichael got over. Horne landed the difficult conversion to cut the gap to 18-13 and set up a tight closing finish.
Carbery eased Irish nerves with a penalty from the 22 to put eight between them with 16 minutes left in the contest.But Scotland came storming back and the Irish line lived a charmed existence. First, big tighthead Zander Fagerson knocked on with the line in sight.
But then Ireland were pinged on the put-in and while the initial charge was stopped, Andrew Davidson spilled it in the tackle just short of the line six minutes from the end. That gave Ireland a chance to clear their line and they retained possession and worked their way upfield and forced a penalty with a couple minutes on the clock.
Tomas Quinlan, the hero of the win over Argentina, made no mistake from the right to wrap up the win and set up the winner-takes-all clash against New Zealand on Wednesday.
But there was still time for Scotland to get a consolation try when Knott finally got over and Blair Kinghorn converted to leave just four between them at the end of a good contest.
Scorers - Ireland: B Dardis, C Oliver tries; J Carbery 3 pens, T Quinlan 1 pen; J Carbery con. Scotland: L Carmichael, R Knott tries; G Horne 2 pens; B Kinghorn 2 cons.
Ireland: B Dardis; C Gaffney, G Ringrose, S Arnold (J Stockdale 61 mins), S Fitzgerald; J Carbery (T Quinlan 67), N McCarthy (Capt) (C Rock 67); A Porter (L O'Connor 63), S McNulty (Z McCall 52), O Heffernan (C O'Donnell 52); D O'Connor, A Thompson (J Dwan 63); J Murphy, C Oliver, L Dow (N Timoney 52)
Scotland: R Howarth; R Nairn, T Galbraith (R Galloway 61 mins), P Kelly, A Coombes; B Kinghorn, G Horne (A Davidson 57); M McCallum (R Graham 46), S James (R Graham 49), Z Fagerson (J Owlett 78); S Cummings (B Vellacott 57), L Carmichael; N Irvine-Hess, J Ritchie (Capt) (R Knott 28 - 37, 40), M Bradbury (R Hutchinson 32).
Referee: Will Houston (Australia).
Sunday Indo Sport