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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018
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5 men who made all the difference as Ireland U20s roared back from 17 down to beat Wales

Five excellent performances from four proud provinces.

Cillian Gallagher makes a carry.
Cillian Gallagher makes a carry.

IRELAND UNDER 20s produced a brilliant comeback to turn a 17 – 0 deficit into a 25 – 26 win over Wales in their opening World Rugby under 20 Championship match against Grand Slam winners Wales.

These five men were some of the brightest sparks in a thrilling Irish display.

Cillian Gallagher

From the very first tackle, and even when the tide was gushing against Ireland, the powerful Sligo man was exemplary in his efforts.

He impressed at blindside during the Six Nations, but Gallagher’s best position is at lock and he proved more than an able partner for captain James Ryan today. From setting a blistering line-speed, to his powerful gainline-winning carries and the manner in which he angrily hunted Welsh line-out throws in the air, Gallagher was a huge part of turning the game around when all looked lost.

Bill Johnston

Very few debuts are error free and Johnston will look back on a handful of mistakes in his first under 20 cap. However, far more obvious was the class that was evident outside of those moments.

Billy Johnston kicks a drop goal Source: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/INPHO

The Tipp man more often than not showed a terrific feel for his angles and gave Ireland a great exit option with some monster clearance kicks on or behind his try-line.

Once his pack gained parity, he looked exceptionally comfortable in attack, popping off simple, effective passes to keep his team on the front foot.

Max Deegan

Took the man-of-the-match award on Sky Sports and deservedly so. The number eight showed off some superb offloading skills in both halves, including an audacious release in the lead-up to Jacob Stockdale’s decisive second try.

Max Deegan is tackled Source: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/INPHO

Without the ball he was integral too, and he nipped the fuse of mounting Welsh pressure midway through the second half with a terrific jackal attempt that won his side a penalty on the 22 metre line.

Jacob Stockdale

Fullback definitely isn’t the most natural of the many positions Stockdale is capable of playing in, but he had more than enough talent to bring him through today with flying colours.

The Ulster back kept an eye open for loose balls seeping out of rucks and that almost earned a try earlier than the turning point he created from behind his own try-line.

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Stockdale showed all his power and confidence with a firm hand-off to sit Keelan Giles down and the offload that set Greg Jones away laid the platform for Adam McBurney’s try in the corner. His two tries were just rewards for some exceptional pieces of play elsewhere on the field.

Conor O’Brien

O’Brien is another man who was switched to a new position today after proving himself elsewhere during the Six Nations, but he excelled at inside centre today. To his and Nigel Carolan’s credit, he didn’t look like a winger for a minute when he was trucking up big carries to help Ireland twist the knife in a fading Welsh defence, and when the opportunity arose to exploit a gap and whip a pass to Stockdale he did so with aplomb.

Conor O’Brien is tackled Source: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/INPHO

The Mullingar man was excellent without the ball too, most notably when a Welsh carrier was held up and he leeched on to help turn a choke into a full on 15 metre backpedal.

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Ireland U20s overcome awful start to claim thrilling one-point win against Wales

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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