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Late drop goal foils Ireland after rousing rally

Ireland came within a whisker of turning over England with a rousing second-half comeback in this U-19 international at Donnybrook.

A late drop goal by English out-half Sam Olver sealed victory for the visitors after the hosts had fought back to turn a 13-point deficit into a two-point lead.

In the opening half, the Irish were outplayed and outmuscled by a gargantuan England side.

The visitors stormed into a 13-0 lead as scrum-half Jordan Burns sniped off a five-metre scrum in the 12th minute and blindside flanker Ross Moriarty stretched out an arm for a classy close-range finish in the 32nd minute.

It would have been worse had Olver not missed both conversions, even though he did strike for three points at the end of the first quarter.

Ireland were passive in defence, allowing England to take contact on their own terms, and they suffered particularly badly at scrum time.

Coach Colin McEntee must have read the riot act at half-time because there was an immediate transformation in attitude and aggression for the second half, and the introduction of an entirely new front-row of Shane Delahunt, Rory Burke and Jacob Walshe did wonders for the scrum.

The Irish were more creative with ball in hand, with centre Rory O'Loughlin taking a straight line for a try in the 48th minute, which was converted by Conor McKeon.

It got even better when inside-centre Peter Robb controlled a bobbling ball to give McKeon a chance to secure the lead in the 55th minute. He was just wide.

Fly-half McKeon was quickly back to make amends when his snap drop goal sailed between the sticks for a first-time lead in the 57th minute.

But that lasted just seven minutes before Olver struck the match-winning drop goal.

Ireland – C Kelleher; R Adair, R O'Loughlin (R Parata 53), P Robb, I Fitzpatrick (D Johnston 56); C McKeon, C Blade (R Foley 65); R Kane (J Walshe 44), M Abbott (S Delahunt 44), S Meunargia (R Burke 42); S O'Brien (capt), R Molony; B Alexander, J Bercis (J O'Neill 48), J O'Donoghue.

England – N Earle (T Hudson 26); Z Kibirige, T Stephenson, J Pohe (D Buck 26), J Watkins; S Olver, J Burns; D Hobbs-Awoyemi (A Lundberg 48), H Thacker (C Neild 48), A Jamieson; M Itoje (J Armstrong 48), T Ellis; R Moriarty (D Hughes 48), G Jones (capt, L Ludlow 52), H Stringer.

Ref – A Ruiz (France).

Irish Independent