Ireland U20s get World Cup campaign off to perfect start with emphatic bonus point win over England
Ireland U20 42 England U20 26
They say excuses are there for the weak of mind.
Certainly, Ireland coach Noel McNamara had a number of them to draw on should the worst come to the worst at the Club de Rugby Atheneo Immaculada, in Santa Fe.
The reason England have made the last six finals in this competition is that they can absorb most injuries easily due to their unfathomable depth chart.
The pre-tournament loss of their captain David Hawkshaw, out-half Harry Byrne and first choice flankers Martin Moloney and Scott Penny were punches they took. The writing was everywhere, but the dressing-room wall.
The accuracy of Ireland’s work had to be spot-on, as it was when these old rivals engaged in Cork in February.
What that rabid night in Irish Independent Park would have done was put England on notice for the opening day of the World Cup. They came not only to play, but to punish.
The English had first use of the breeze and they blitzed up in defence for Nic Dolly to force a penalty for Manu Vunipola to split the posts.
Then, Ollie Sleightholme got on the outside of Iwan Hughes, Vunipola, making it a 10-point game.
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Charlie Ryan came up with a vital block and Jake Flannery stepped off his right foot for a try and conversion.
John Hodnett clamped down on Willis for a penalty and the same man stole another ball on the ground. Even so, Vunipola struck to make it 13-7 in the 26th minute.
A remarkable take by Dylan Tierney-Martin on the restart put Ireland on the front-foot and Stewart Moore dived on the ball for a smartly taken try, Flannery’s conversion edging them in front in the 28th minute.
A high hit from Aaron Hinkley on Angus Kernohan was deemed worthy of a yellow as the Irish led 14-13 at the interval.
Ireland could easily have been discouraged by ten quick points from Vunipola’s penalty and Sleightholme’s second.
The indiscipline of the English was their downfall, Vunipola binned for a high tackle on Iwan Hughes.
The Irish forwards went into overdrive for David McCann to burrow over, Ben Healy converting in the 52nd minute.
But, Tom Seabrook whistled up the left for England to recover the lead. Charlie Ryan turned down a penalty to go for gold and McCann blasted through for his second, Healy’s extras making it 28-26 in the 62nd minute.
It was then Alfie Barbeary was red carded for an outrageous lift and dump of Hodnett. Ireland opted for a scrum Craig Casey moving the ball left for Healy to touchdown and land a touchline conversion for a two-score lead.
They survived a drive by Joel Kpoku due to Sean French’s willingness to stay in the fight, forcing a knock-on. It wasn’t long before French was going in the other direction, Hodnett crashing over for Healy’s conversion to close a spectacular show.
Ireland: I Hughes; A Kernohan, L Turner, S Moore, J Wren; J Flannery, C Casey; J Wycherley , D Tierney-Martin, T Clarkson, C Ryan (capt), R Baird, D McCann, J Hodnett, A Allison.
Replacements: R Watters for Allison 25 mins; S French for Moore, B Healy for Hughes both 50 mins; M Milne or Wycherley, N Murray for Baird, C Booth for McCann, D Adamson for Tierney-Martin all 73 mins.
England: T de Glanville; O Sleightholme, F Dingwall (capt), C Redpath, T Seabrook; M Vunipola, O Fox; O Adkins, N Dolly, J Heyes, J Kopku, A Coles, T Hill, A Hinkley, T Willis.
Replacements: J Hodge for Vunipola 16 mins - temp; A Reed for Seabrook 55 mins; R Tuima for Willis 63 mins; K Owen for Adkins, R Capstick for Coles, N Dolly for Sleightholme all 68 mins.
Referee: D Murphy, Australia.