SCOTLAND UNDER-20s 5 IRELAND UNDER-20s 24
A comfortable win in the end for the Ireland Under-20s but head coach Noel McNamara said afterwards that his over-riding emotion was of frustration that his team were not quite able to really put a plucky Scotland side to the sword at a blustery Netherdale.
Speaking in the aftermath of the three-try 24-5 win, which moves his side onto nine points after two rounds, McNamara said: “Scotland made it very, very difficult for us, so you have to give them credit for a pretty obstinate defensive performance, and on the balance of it we’re two from two – we’ve come away from this game with four points when a lot of Irish teams in the past have maybe struggled to get a result.
“So, I think we are happy enough but frustration is the word which keeps coming back to mind. Scotland slowed the game down a lot in the first half and we got frustrated and our discipline got the better of us. When we got the ball, we were just a little bit panicky with it, trying to push things that didn’t need to be pushed – trying to score in that one phase when we needed to build some pressure.
“We’ve got a break now to assess this game, and the England game, before we head over to Italy (in two weeks’ time) for another tough game against a side which put in a very good performance here last week, coming out with a 32-22 win.”
Although the Scots made the early running, it was the Ireland Under-20s who drew first blood in the sixth minute when a fairly fortuitous bounce of the ball from a loose Irish pass set up the field position for out-half Harry Byrne to send a straightforward offside penalty through the posts for a 3-0 lead.
The home team rallied but struggled to find the quick ball they needed to stress Ireland’s well-organised and aggressive push defence, meaning they went through over a dozen phases shifting left and right along the Irish 22 without any meaningful progress towards the try-line. Ross Thompson had a shot at goal which caught in the wind and fell agonisingly short.
After Leinster flanker Scott Penny had been held up over the line, Ireland extended their lead when in-form hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin muscled his way over the 21st minute, registering his third try in two Championship outings. Byrne added the extras as the visitors carved out a 10-point advantage to take into the break.
Scotland came within a whisker of biting right back through a driven lineout from a penalty kicked to the corner, but hooker Ewan Ashman lost control of the ball as he propelled himself for the score. Dublin University centre Liam Turner looked dangerous with the ball in hand on a couple of occasions but did not have the support he needed on his shoulder as the game started to open up in the third quarter.
At the other end, a little bit more composure from Scottish winger Jack Blain, and then number 10 Thompson, might have seen the home side do some damage with a couple of adventurous attacks from deep. Instead, a brave interjection from Jonathan Wren, swooping in head first to claim the ball as Blain bore down on his own kick ahead, derailed another promising Scottish attack.
The Scots had stayed in touch, though, and were growing in confidence. he big question was whether they had enough left in the tank, both physically and mentally, to harness the strong wind at their backs and really turn the tables during the second half. Ultimately, it was Ireland who dominated the final 40 minutes, managing to control the ball better with the wind in their faces rather than at their backs.
An edginess in Scotland’s play led them to twice cough up possession in promising positions, then slowly but surely McNamara’s charges started to crank up the pressure, although they struggled to break their opponents’ brave defence. Loosehead Josh Wycherley lost the ball as he burrowed for the line, and careless hands in the centre put paid to another scoring opportunity.
Nonetheless, the inevitable try came through hard-working UCC number 8 John Hodnett, at the end of a move which featured some typically strong running from Penny and Turner. That was the score that killed off any lingering hope the Scots had of mounting an unlikely comeback, but to their credit they kept plugging away at 17 points down.
Despite losing centre Robbie McCallum to the sin-bin, they got their reward with nine minutes to go when they managed to control the ball this time on a close-range lineout drive, and captain Connor Boyle received the plaudits for getting the ball down. The try went unconverted and it was the only blip on an otherwise impressive Irish defensive display.
Ensuring that the victors had the final say, Cork Constitution winger Wren picked up the ball wide on the left just inside Scotland’s half and had more than enough gas to burn off a couple of defenders and brilliantly slalom past last man Rufus McLean for a terrific solo try. He made the conversion kick easier for Byrne who kicked crisply again from the tee, landing nine points to add to the 15 he scored against England.
Scorers: Scotland: Try: Connor Boyle
Ireland: Tries: Dylan Tierney-Martin, John Hodnett, Jonathan Wren; Cons: Harry Byrne 3; Pen: Harry Byrne
HT: Scotland 0 Ireland 10
SCOTLAND U-20: Rufus McLean (Watsonians); Rory McMichael (Heriot’s), Cameron Anderson (Wasps), Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros), Jack Blain (Heriot’s); Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks), Roan Frostwick (Currie Chieftains); Murphy Walker (Stirling County), Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Euan McLaren (Ayr), Cameron Henderson (Stirling County), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s), Connor Boyle (Watsonians) (capt), Kwagga Van Niekirk (Lions).
Replacements used: Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Bears) for Thompson (46 mins), Matt Davidson (London Scottish) for Anderson (48), Jack Mann (Edinburgh Accies) for van Niekirk (56), Kyle McGhie (Musselburgh) for Frostwick, Ross Bundy (Stirling County) for Johnson (both 60), Angus Fraser (Glasgow Hawks) for Ashman, Will Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan University) for McLaren (both 63), Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks) for Walker (72).
IRELAND U-20: Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster); Conor Phillips (Young Munster/Munster), Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster), David Hawkshaw (Clontarf/Leinster) (capt), Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster); Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster), Cormac Foley (St. Mary’s College/Leinster); Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht), Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht), Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Scott Penny (UCD/Leinster), John Hodnett (UCC/Munster).
Replacements used: Colm Reilly (Buccaneers/Connacht) for Reilly, Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster) for Wycherley, John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Tierney-Martin (all 62 mins), David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster) for Penny (63), Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster) for McPhillips (64). Not used: Luke Masters (Shannon/Munster), Brian Deeny (Clontarf/Leinster), Sean French (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)