Sport Rugby

Monday 18 December 2017

McEllin helps Ireland hold off neighbours to claim title

Ireland 17 England 8

IRELAND became European U-18 champions for the first time with a comprehensive victory over England at Tarbes, France on Saturday.

Having edged past the hosts in the semi-final, Terry McMaster's well-drilled charges put in a first-half display that left the English with too much to do after the break.

Blackrock wing Conor McEllin's first-half try was the all-important score as Ireland kept the bigger opposition pack on the back foot. The boot of captain Luke McGrath did the rest of the damage.

The talismanic skipper from St Michael's kicked his side into a 6-0 lead early on and the skipper's distribution kept the English on their toes. Despite the muggy, wet conditions, Ireland controlled the game at the Stade Maurice Trelut.

They lost lock Jerry Sexton -- brother of international fly-half Jonny -- but Ireland got over for a deserved try on 26 minutes. McEllin had already agonisingly knocked on with the line at his mercy, but the winger more than made up for it with his finish.

McGrath showed great control again at scrum-half, willing his forwards on as Edward Byrne made a barnstorming run and Jack Fitzpatrick -- on as a blood sub for Rory Scholes -- threatened the line.

McEllin eventually got over in the corner after Chris Farrell had drawn the man and put him in as Ireland went in 11-3 in front, Henry Slade kicking the England penalty.

Despite early English pressure that saw Gordon Frayne's tackling come to the fore, they couldn't find a way through the Irish rearguard after the interval.

McGrath missed two difficult penalties, but after Dominic Barrow was sin-binned, Ireland took full advantage. The scrum-half was given two more opportunities and made no mistake as Ireland led by 14.

Prop Alec Hepburn burrowed over for a try but Will Hooley's missed conversion meant England couldn't get within a converted score and Ireland held on comfortably for a famous victory.

IRELAND -- R Scholes (J Fitzpatrick 55); C McEllin, R Henshaw, C Farrell, M Roche (C O'Halloran 69); S Olding (R Scannell 69), L McGrath (capt) (D Shanahan 69); G Frayne (C Taylor 47), B Byrne, E Byrne; J Sexton (L Satchwell 16), G Thornbury (J O'Neill 41); D Lawler, D Leavy, R Murphy.

ENGLAND -- J Nowell; A Watson, M Jennings, S Hill, J Arnott; H Slade, A Day; A Hepburn, N Morris, D Herriott; T Jubb, D Barrow (capt); D Sisi, M Hankin, J Clifford.

Ref -- A Blondel (FRU)

Irish Independent

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