Sport Six Nations

Thursday 18 January 2018

Ireland U-20s put to sword by clinical Wales

Ireland U-20 24 Wales U-20 35

Shane Daly makes a break (SPORTSFILE)
Shane Daly makes a break (SPORTSFILE)
Declan Smith is tackled by Jimmy O'Brien (SPORTSFILE)
Jack Power is tackled by Harri Millard (SPORTSFILE)
Peter Claffey is tackled by Dafydd Hughes (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ireland U-20s are already playing catch-up in their Six Nations campaign after they were ruthlessly torn apart by a clinical and far superior Welsh outfit at Donnybrook last night.

All the talk in the build-up was about Ireland's bulky pack but they came up against an equally big Welsh side and crucially, their opponents had the backs outside of them to repeatedly punish the hosts.

The 4G surface in Donnybrook is rapid and so too were the Welsh backs as Ireland struggled to get out of their own half for large periods.

In front of the watchful eye of Joe Schmidt, Ireland's offloading game was at times impressive but too often Wales were quicker to the breakdown.

A try either side of the break killed off Ireland's hopes and from there Wales were always in control.

Johnny McPhillips had already kicked Ireland into an early lead with a penalty and it was his perfectly weighted cross-field kick that created Cillian Gallagher's opening try.


The out-half found Shane Daly out on the left wing and the Munster player made ground before offloading to Jimmy O'Brien who in turn showed great awareness to keep the ball alive just as he was being bundled into touch.

Gallagher brilliantly picked up the loose ball as he slid and turned over the whitewash. The referee went to the TMO to check for a possible knock-on but the try was good and Ireland were off to a flyer.

Dan Jones, who finished the game with 20 points, pegged the hosts back with a penalty after eight minutes and McPhillips missed the chance to cancel that out when he pulled a penalty wide.

Wales were beginning to grow in confidence and as their pack got the upper hand, the pressure eventually told on the Irish defence.

Harrison Keddie was twice stopped short before Dafydd Hughes burrowed his way over. Replays suggested that the hooker was stopped short but the referee opted not to go upstairs and the try stood. Jones' conversion bisected the posts.

Will Connors, who was outstanding all half, made a searing break through the middle and found Kelvin Brown who had come on as a temporary replacement.

Wales' indiscipline at the breakdown allowed McPhillips to kick Ireland back into the lead but a minute later they were guilty of a similar offence and Jones again punished them for 13-11 lead with eight minutes left in the half.

Ireland captain James Ryan gathered his players under the posts and he led by example with a strong carry that eventually resulted in McPhillips putting his side back in front.

There was still time left in the half for Wales to get over for the crucial try and this time it was Ospreys' towering second-row Adam Beard who spotted a gap in Ireland's narrow defence and scored. Jones added the extras for a 20-14 lead after a pulsating half.

If the try before the break was a blow then what followed a minute after the restart was an even bigger setback.

Ireland looked to clear their lines but John Poland's pass was picked off by Jones and he ran clear unopposed to score.

Ireland were dealt another blow by losing Connors at half-time but Brown returned and, just like his brief cameo in the first half, made an immediate impact. Ryan took it upon himself to decline the three points on offer and although that went against the wishes of the Irish coaching staff seated in the press box, the captain's decision proved to be the correct one.

Nigel Carolan has spoken at length about wanting his players to make decisions for themselves and when the pack drove Wales back for a brilliantly-worked try off the set-piece, the coach's wishes had come good. Brown was credited with the try but McPhillips couldn't cut the gap further (25-19) as he missed the conversion.

Just as Ireland looked to be gathering momentum, Peter Claffey was harshly sent to the bin for blocking Jones' run. The out-half fired over the resulting penalty as Wales stretched their advantage again.

Harri Millard rubbed salt in the wounds with a fourth try when he scored in the corner and Jones again slotted the touchline conversion.

Wales finished the game with 14 men as Beard was sent to the sin bin. Daly got over for a consolation try late on but attentions were already turning to a daunting trip to France next week.

Ireland U-20 - J Power (B Connon 77); M Byrne, S Daly, J O'Brien, H Keenan; J McPhillips (C O'Brien 67), J Poland (S Keirns 73); A Porter (J Bollard 77), A McBurney (S Fenton 73), C O'Donnell (C Kenny 62); P Claffey (S O'Connor 67), J Ryan (capt); C Gallagher, W Connors (K Brown h-t), M Deegan (K Brown 24-33).

Wales U-20 - R Williams; E-W Benham (B Morgan 75), H Millard, O Watkin, K Giles (J Thomas 60); D Jones (J Evans 66), D Smith (R Morgan-Williams 52); C Domachowski (R Lewis 77), D Hughes, D Lewis (L Brown 73); S Lewis-Hughes, A Beard; T Phillips (capt), S Evans, H Keddie (M Sieniawski 73).

REF - T Charabas (FFR)

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