Ireland under-20s back on track with six-try win but were given a huge scare by 14-man Italy
Ireland U-20s 38 Italy U-20s 34
Ireland U-20s recovered from a shaky start but in the end they just about hung on against 14-man Italy to breathe life back into their Six Nations campaign.
Defeat in France last week left no margin for error at Donnybrook tonight and Ireland responded by delivering a six-try performance that was far from perfect.
The visitors were the creators of their own downfall and in front of Italy boss Conor O’Shea, they handed Ireland a major advantage with a straight red card for blindside flanker Jacopo Bianchi for a dangerous tip tackle after just nine minutes.
Despite the sending off, Ireland were made to sweat as Italy sparked a late comeback that ultimately fell just short.
Ireland’s bonus point was wrapped up as early as the 25th minute when Munster winger James McCarthy spectacularly finished for his second try of the evening, and his third in two games.
Sean Masterson worked tirelessly, while Michael Silvester was a constant threat from full-back.
It had all started so brightly for Italy when they raced into the lead after a minute when Tommaso Coppo intercepted Harry Byrne’s pass and ran clear to score.
The early setback sparked Noel McNamara’s side into life though and once they drew level three minutes later through McCarthy’s first try, they took control.
Their cause was helped however when Bianchi’s reckless tackle on Jack Dunne left the referee with no choice but to brandish the red card, after he consulted with the TMO.
Hugh O’Sullivan was lively throughout and the scrum-half put his side into the lead for the first time after 15 minutes with a sniping finish from close range.
Byrne was on target with the conversion and again two minutes later after Cormac Daly used his big frame to crash over.
Ireland’s 19-5 lead was reduced when Antonio Rizza knocked over a penalty but the hosts came roaring back again three minutes later.
Having just made a key interception, O’Sullivan sparked the attack that led to McCarthy’s acrobatic finish.
Byrne was on target with the touchline conversion but was unable to repeat the trick five minutes before the break after Peter Sullivan crossed in the corner.
Ireland took their foot off the pedal and Italy got over for a second try before the break through Nicolo Cannone, which Rizzi converted.
A 31-15 half-time deficit got worse three minutes after the restart when Jack Aungier powered over. Byrne added the extras to push his side 38-15 in front.
But to their credit, Italy hit back again adding further evidence that this contest would have been altogether different had they kept 15 players on the pitch. This time it was Damiano Mazza who dotted down after 53 minutes.
Ireland lacked energy in the second half, and they were punished again when Rizzi finished off a brilliant, free-flowing move.
The out-half converted his own try to give Italy hope of completing the comeback (38-27) with 15 minutes left.
Those hopes became even more real when Edoardo Iachizzi crashed over a minute from time, with Rizzi’s quick drop goal adding the extras.
Italy launched one final attack but Ireland held firm to force a penalty that brought the final whistle, and with it a collective sigh of relief around Donnybrook.
Ireland U-20s – M Silvester (P Patterson 73); P Sullivan, T O’Brien (capt), A Curtis, J McCarthy (A Kernohan 78); H Byrne (C Dean 57), H O’Sullivan; J Duggan (J French 73), E Clarke (D Barron 54), J Aungier (T O’Toole 54); C Daly, J Dunne (C Ryan 75); S Masterson, M Agnew, J O’Sullivan (R Foley h-t).
Italy U-20s – A Rossi (F Di Marco 72); S Cornelli (A Fusco 57), M Biondelli, D Mazza, T Coppo; A Rizzi, N Casilio; D Fishetti (L Mariottini 52), M Luccardi (N Taddia 50), M Mancini Parri (F Romano 50); N Cannone (E Iachizzi 52), M Canali; J Bianchi, M Lamaro (capt), L Manni (E Ghigo 74).
REF – D Jones (Wales)
Independent.ie's U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC