Saturday 17 August 2019

Ireland's disappointing World Cup campaign ends with defeat against New Zealand

Ireland U-20s 17 New Zealand U-20s 40

Craig Casey of Ireland during the New World Rugby U20 Championship Pool B match between Zealand and Ireland
Craig Casey of Ireland during the New World Rugby U20 Championship Pool B match between Zealand and Ireland
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

A difficult World Cup for the Ireland U-20s came to a disappointing end, but as was the case throughout the tournament, there was no shortage of endeavour.

Defeat to New Zealand means that Ireland finish eighth overall, as they ran out steam having had to battle against repeated injury setbacks over the last three weeks.

Trailing 26-0, the easy thing would have been to give up, yet Ireland gritted their teeth and took the game to New Zealand, who eventually regained their composure to see off a spirited comeback.

Josh Wycherley, Dylan Tierney-Martin and Ryan Baird got Ireland's three tries with the latter a sensational score that was indicative of the kind of free-flowing rugby that this team have served up all year.

New Zealand opened up a 26-0 lead inside a rampant opening 20 minutes that saw Ireland struggle to get anywhere near their opponents.

Etene Nanai Seturo helped himself to two tries, while Oliver Norris and Leicester Fainga'anuku also crossed the whitewash to go with Rivez Reihana's three conversions.

Ireland were shell-shocked, but they never threw in the towel and finished the half strongly.

After a period of sustained pressure, they eventually broke New Zealand's resistance just before the break when Josh Wycherley powered over from close range.

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If that gave Ireland a glimmer of hope, they had more reason to believe that an unlikely comeback could be on the cards when Billy Proctor was sin-binned for a high tackle deep in the first-half.

Noel McNamara's men knew they needed to capitalise after the restart and they did just that through a really well-worked Tierney-Martin try that Jake Flannery converted.

Ireland's brave approach paid huge dividends after 50 minutes when Baird scored one of the tries of the tournament. The powerful Leinster man made a big break down the left wing and linked brilliantly with Craig Casey, who was extremely clever in how he returned the ball to Baird to score.

That third try cut the gap to nine points (26-17), but against the run of play, New Zealand hit back for the killer blow with a converted try through Tamaiti Williams with 13 minutes left on the clock, before Shilo Klein rubbed salt into wounds with another late seven-pointer.

New Zealand finished the game with 14 men after Williams was binned for another high tackle, but by that stage, Ireland had already been condemned to an eighth place finish.

Scorers: Ireland U-20s – Wycherley, Tierney-Martin & Baird 1 try each. Flannery 1 con. New Zealand U-20s – Nanai Seturo 2 tries, Norris, Fainga'anuku, Williams, Klein 1 try each. Reihana 5 cons.

Ireland U-20s – M O'Reilly (B Healy 67); A Kernohan, L Turner, C Foley, R Russell (J Wren 65); J Flannery, C Casey; J Wycherley (M Milne 65), D Tierney-Martin (J McKee 72), T Clarkson; C Ryan (capt), T Ahern (N Murray 67); R Baird (L Clohessy 67), R Watters, B Deeny (A Allison 59).

New Zealand U-20s – C Forbes; E Nanai Seturo (F Burke 77), B Proctor, Q Tupaea, L Fainga'anuku; R Reihana (D McLeod 73), T Funaki (L Carter 57); O Norris (R Cobb 67), S Klein (K Uluilakepa, 72), F Newell (T Williams 50); C Grace, T Vaa'i (J Thompson 57); K Boshier (capt) (T Plumtree 30), J Mua, S Parker.

REF: A Piardi (Italy)

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