Thursday 19 July 2018

O’Sullivan double helps Ireland U-20 halt Scottish charge

Ireland U20 30-25 Scotland U20

9 March 2018; Jack O'Sullivan of Ireland scores his side's fourth try during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at Donnybrook Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
9 March 2018; Jack O'Sullivan of Ireland scores his side's fourth try during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at Donnybrook Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

This Ireland U-20s team certainly don’t make things easy for themselves, but they eventually shrugged off a dogged Scotland side to seal their second Six Nations win.

The game was in the balance until the last five minutes when the outstanding Jack O’Sullivan popped up with his second try of the evening, and his fourth in two games.

Joe Schmidt and Gregor Townsend kept a close eye on proceedings from the Donnybrook stand, and both senior head coaches will have been impressed by what they saw, at least in attack. On his first start of the Championship, Tom O’Toole put in a powerful performance both at scrum time and in the loose while his Ulster colleague Angus Curtis again showed plenty of potential.

O’Sullivan, however, has arguably been Ireland’s stand-out player in the campaign and his relentless work rate was crucial to his side building an 18-6 half-time lead.

The Munster No 8 has a huge engine, is a wrecking ball with ball in hand and has the footwork to go with it.

It was O’Sullivan’s try after just three minutes that set Ireland on their way to victory. Curtis’ searing line break had the Scottish defence scrambling and from there the Irish attack clicked into gear.

The pack ensured that the ball was recycled quickly and O’Sullivan was on hand to bulldoze his way over. Harry Byrne converted and added a penalty from the same spot three minutes later.

An excellent start quickly got better when Byrne tacked on a second penalty but then poor Irish discipline allowed Scotland a foothold into the game and Ross Thompson gleefully accepted it by firing over two penalties in quick succession to cut the gap to 13-6.

Ireland were much the better team and six minutes before the break, they ensured that their dominance counted on the scoreboard.

Michael Silvester’s scintillating break brought his side deep into Scottish territory. O’Sullivan was held up before he was stopped just short before the line from the resulting scrum, but Matthew Agnew was on hand to dive over from close range.

Ireland were quick out of the traps after the restart, with the pack winning two scrum penalties – the second of which was in front of the posts but Byrne was off target with his shot at goal.

One of the biggest criticisms of this Ireland team has been their tendency to switch off during games and they did so again here after 53 minutes.

The covering defence made a mess of long kick down field and Kyle Rowe profited as he had the easiest of tasks to score.

That brought Scotland back to 18-11 but it woke Ireland up and two minutes later they went down the other end and scored through Matthew Dalton.

The game had lost all its pattern at this stage and that suited the Scots. They got over for their second try through Martin Hughes and Thompson converted from the touchline.

Suddenly Ireland’s missed kicks were threatening to come back to haunt them as their lead was back to five (23-18). The home side were losing the collisions and the pressure was beginning to tell. But a superb last-ditch tackle from Jonny Stewart denied Scotland a certain try.

Ireland finished with a flourish, however, as O’Sullivan turned on the after-burners to score his second try of the game to seal the bonus point and Conor Dean converted.

Nathan McBeth got over a consolation, the extras added by Thompson, in the last play of the game but by that stage Ireland’s attentions had already turned to England next weekend, where they could potentially win the championship.

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

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