Sport Under-20s Six Nations

Wednesday 20 June 2018

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Ireland comeback falls just short as Wales expose defensive shortcomings

Ireland U20 38 Wales U20 41

23 February 2018; Harri Morgan of Wales is tackled by Harry Byrne of Ireland during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Donnybrook Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
23 February 2018; Harri Morgan of Wales is tackled by Harry Byrne of Ireland during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Donnybrook Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Darkness descended upon Donnybrook as the floodlights briefly failed before kick-off, and come full-time, the lights went out on Ireland’s Six Nations campaign.

Defeat in France earlier in round one left no wriggle room, but Ireland’s error count was far too high and, against a powerful Welsh side, they came unstuck.

A pulsating contest in which 11 tries were shared, saw Ireland leave themselves with too much to do, in front of Joe Schmidt and his coaching staff. Two second-half tries from man of the match Jack O’Sullivan were not enough as Wales clung on to win.

Just like they were in France in the opening game, Ireland were slow out of the traps and Wales took full advantage as they raced into a 12-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes.

Thomas Rogers and Max Williams crossed, with Cai Evans, son of former Wales and Lions winger Ieuan, converting the second try.

A Harry Byrne penalty put his side on the board after 15 minutes, but just as Ireland gained a foothold in the game, another sloppy error in attack was punished when Wales counter-attacked from their own 22, with James Botham, grandson of former English cricketer Ian, eventually burrowing his way over from close range. Evans added the extras to push Wales into a 19-3 lead but Ireland fought back.

Angus Curtis got over with four left on the clock and Byrne was on target with the conversion to cut the half-time deficit to nine points.

But all of Ireland’s good work was undone seconds after the restart when Wales got the bonus try through Tommy Reffell. It was nightmare stuff from an Irish viewpoint and Evans’ extras left them 26-10 behind.

O’Sullivan showed his class again when he powered away from a couple of tacklers to score. Byrne quickly drop-kicked the conversion over the bar to give Ireland hope. Those hopes were quickly dampened as an Irish overthrow allowed Botham over for his second try to stretch the lead (17-31).

O’Sullivan hit back with his second try and Byrne again converted, but the topsy-turvy nature of the game continued as Wales responded with a sixth try, this time through Callum Carson. Evans’ conversion left Wales 38-24 to the good.

Ireland got a try-scoring bonus point when Stewart crept over for another converted try with 14 minutes remaining. Evans looked to have made sure of the win with a 71st-minute penalty but a brilliant try from Tommy O’Brien, converted by Stewart, kept Ireland in the hunt.

The hosts launched one final roll of the dice but could no find no way through as they had to settle for two bonus points.

Ireland U20s – M Silvester; T O’Brien (capt), J Hume (H O’Sullivan 73), A Curtis, J McCarthy (A Kernohan 67); H Byrne (C Dean 71), J Stewart; J Duggan (J French 71), R Kelleher (D Barron 76), J Aungier (T O’Toole 71); C Daly (C Ryan 29), J Dunne; S Masterson (R Foley 72), M Agnew, J O’Sullivan.

Wales U20s – C Evans; J Goodchild (D Smith 65), C Carson, M Llewellyn, T Rogers (B Thomas 67); B Jones, H Morgan (D Babos 61); R Reynolds (D Lake 47), I Harris (D Lake 61), R Henry (K Mathias 47); O Lloyd (J Pope 76, M Williams; T Reffell, J Botham, T Basham (M Morris 61).

REF – S Grove White (SRU)

Independent.ie's U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC

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