Scholes on song in rousing rally
Italy u-20 25 Ireland u-20 25
Ireland staged a remarkable comeback from 15 points down in the second half to salvage a late draw at L'Aquila.
Rory Scholes' late try kept Ireland's record of never losing to Italy intact, but Mike Ruddock's side got a real fright.
Ireland conceded four tries but recovered from the early loss of centre Tom Daly to injury as tries from replacements Daniel Panter and Jerry Sexton helped them to a share of the spoils.
With defeats to Wales and Scotland behind them, Ireland would have been keen to avoid a third loss.
However, the early signs were not positive as Tizano Pasquali crossed in the fourth minute for Italy.
It got even worse for Ruddock's side three minutes later when the promising Treviso centre Michele Campagnaro waltzed over to give the home side a 12-0 lead.
Edoardo Padovani added a penalty to his earlier conversion to give Italy a 15-0 lead, as it appeared that Ireland were about to end their Six Nations campaign with three away defeats to add to their home victories over England and France.
But credit the young Irish side, as they managed to drag themselves back into the encounter after being battered for the opening quarter, and when Panter – an early replacement for Daly – dotted down in the 27th minute they were right back in the game.
Rory Scannell added the difficult conversion from the touchline to make it 15-7 and, after Giovanni Benvenuti crossed for the Italians, the Munster youngster reduced the deficit again with a well-struck penalty which sent the Italians in with a 20-10 lead at the break.
Ireland's fortunes took a turn for the worse four minutes after the restart when David Odiete bagged Italy's fourth try but, crucially, Padovani missed the tricky conversion; however, his side still held a 25-10 lead.
But that would prove to be Italy's last score and just short of the hour mark Sexton emerged from the bottom of a powerful driving maul to claim the plaudits after an attacking line-out gave Ireland a good platform to work from.
Scannell narrowly missed the conversion and a difficult penalty three minutes later, but he made up for those errors when he slotted a penalty from under the posts after an Italian offside infringement.
And the comeback was completed in the 73rd minute when out-half Steve Crosbie picked out Scholes with a pinpoint cross-field kick for the Ulster centre to touch down.
And Scannell landed his second difficult conversion of the night to draw the sides level and ensure a share of the spoils.
Italy U-20 – A Esposito; D M Odiete, M Campagnaro, A Bettin, F Guarducci; E Padovani, M Violi; L Scarsini, A Moriconi, T Pasquali; A Zdrilich, M Andreotti; A Trotta, V Marazzi, M Mbanda'. Reps: L Conti for Moriconi 55, C Traore for Scarsini 55, R Biancotti for Pasquali 60, S Marinaro for Violi 75.
Ireland U-20 – D Leader (Galwegians/Connacht); D Sweetnam (UCC/Munster), T Daly (Lansdowne/Leinster), R Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), R Scholes (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); S Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster), L McGrath (UCD/Leinster) (capt); P Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), J Andrew (Ballymena/Ulster), R Furniss (Worcester Warriors/Exiles), S McCarthy (Shannon/Munster), J Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster), C Joyce (Malone/Ulster), J van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), R Murphy (Dolphin/Munster). Reps: D Panter (Corinthians/Connacht) for Daly 7, B Byrne (UCD/Leinster) for Andrew 54, B Scott (UCC/Munster) for Furniss 56, J Sexton (St Mary's College/Leinster) for McCarthy 54, P Timmins (UCD/Leinster) for Murphy 54, E Quinn (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Sweetnam 74, D Shanahan (Clontarf/Leinster) for McGrath 79.
Ref – A Ruiz (France)
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.