England's Under-20s overwhelm Ireland to secure a big win at the Ricoh Arena
England U-20s 48 Ireland U-20s 15
FOR 56 minutes, this was a titanic tussle that ebbed and flowed, and the longer it went on, you always got the feeling that whoever could conjure up a moment of magic would emerge victorious.
Ultimately, it was England who came up with the goods through the sensational Gabriel Ibitoye who scored twice, as they eventually wore down an Ireland side who will wonder what might have been.
Ireland dominated the first half and will feel as if they should have had more to show for it than just going into the break tied at 15-15.
It took until the 56th minute for England to strike for the knockout blow as they ran the length of the pitch to score, before they ran riot.
Angus Curtis has had a fine campaign and the Ulster centre was central to Ireland getting off to an ideal start after eight minutes.
It was Curtis’s scything break that unlocked the English defence before he fired a beautiful pass off his right out to Angus Kernohan who was bundled into touch just shy of the line.
From the resulting lineout, Harry Byrne’s grubber-kick was expertly gathered by Tommy O’Brien, who then turned provider as he played a lovely pass back inside for James Hume to score.
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It was just the start that the visitors wanted but they will be kicking themselves for allowing England such an easy way back into the game two minutes later.
Ireland failed to deal with a speculative cross-field kick from James Grayson, son of former England outhalf Paul, and Ben Loader rose above Michael Silvester and then dotted down to level the score.
This time it was Ireland’s turn to find an immediate response as O’Brien intercepted Fraser Dingwall’s looping pass and ran clear from the 22 to put his side back in front.
Byrne added the extras on the quarter-hour mark, but just as they had done minutes earlier, Ireland went to sleep and England punished them.
Dingwall made amends for his error by scoring in the corner and Tom Hardwick’s conversion drew the teams level again.
Ireland continued to dominate but their indiscipline was punished 45 metres out and Hardwick fired over a long-range penalty.
Byrne responded in kind with a rather more straightforward effort from in front of the posts, but Ireland will wonder if they might have come away with more than just three points.
They were pounding away at the England line and playing with advantage, Byrne over-cooked his cross-field kick for Kernohan when it might have been better to put the ball through the hands.
Nevertheless, Byrne’s penalty ensured that Ireland went into the interval tied at 15-15 after what was an enthralling half.
England piled on the pressure after the restart and they thought they were over for a third try through Ibitoye but after the referee consulted with his TMO, he disallowed it for offside, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
In truth it was a let-off for Ireland who were struggling to control the tempo as much as they were in the first half.
It took them 15 minutes of the second period to play in England’s 22 but they coughed up possession and paid the ultimate price.
Matthew Dalton knocked on and in the blink of an eye, England ran the length of the pitch to score.
Ibitoye’s fearlessness to run the ball from his own line was rewarded as he cut through three defenders before finding Ben White who had run a great support line.
White showed a clean pair of heels to run clear to score as England provided the sucker punch. Hardwick added the extras for 22-15 and it went from bad to worse for Ireland from there.
They first lost Sean Masterson to injury after he had come on as a replacement and then O’Brien was sent to the sin-bin for a cynical pull back on an English player.
There was only so long the tiring 14-man Irish defence could hold out and the pressure eventually told as Joe Heyes got over for the bonus point. Hardwick added the extras and did so again when Ibitoye scored his second try with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Ireland were out on their feet and there was no let up from England as Josh Basham scored a sixth try, again converted by Hardwick. A seventh soon followed from Ben Earl with Ireland down to 14 players due to an injury to Silvester.
The lopsided scoreline didn’t quite reflect Ireland’s efforts but they were handed a harsh lesson that they must learn from ahead of June’s World Cup.
England U-20s: Jordan Olowofela (WButler75); GIbitoye, F Dingwall, T Hardwick, B Loader (T Searbrook 61); J Grayson, B White (R Brand 71); T Trinder (A Seville 62), H Walker (G Oghre 50), M Street (J Heyes 57); D Lamb (T Hill 68), J Scott (S Lewis 58); J Basham, B Earl (capt), S Moore.
Ireland U-20s - M Silvester; J Hume (S O’Brien 64), T O’Brien (capt), A Curtis, A Kernohan; H Byrne (C Dean 58), H O’Sullivan (J Stewart 60); J Duggan (J French 51), D Barron (E Clarke 54), J Aungier (T O’Toole 60); M Dalton, J Dunne; J Dunleavy (S Masterson, 51) (R Coffey 58) , M Agnew, J O’Sullivan.
REF: P Brousset (France)
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