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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Ireland celebrate their bonus point win.
# Shoot-out
Ireland U20 show attacking intent to grab brilliant bonus point win over England
Noel McNamara’s men had to battle back from 11 down twice before grabbing a superb win.

Ireland U20 35

England U20 27

Sean Farrell reports from Musgrave Park

SEVEN TRIES, A frenetic pace, tenacity in droves, line-breaks too.

This was the perfect game to warm the cockles on a freezing night in Cork long before Ireland sealed a brilliant bonus point win.

Noel McNamara promised his side would attack with pace and energy in a bid to move the bigger English side around the fast 4G surface. But they did so much more than that, they took them on at source as well as at the fringe and the reward of a thrilling win came after they twice trailed by 11 points during a frantic first-half.

It was a night of brilliant performances all round in green, Dylan Tierney-Martin took a deserved man of the match, scrum-half Craig Casey was seen handing off a loosehead, Liam Turner cut and stepped like a Keith Earls prototype and Harry Byrne’s classy attacking traits were backed up with a brilliant try-saver when he out-jumped Cadan Murley when the wing looked set to ground his second.

The odds were stacked against McNamara’s men, but their opening gave a clear indication that they were ready to meet England head on. They sought out the early territory, a charge down was forced and Corkman Jonathan Wren soon popped up to grab an intercept that the 5,764 crowd went wild over.

Even the blow of that score being chalked off for Byrne’s knock-on was tempered by the sight of the out-half drilling a penalty after his pack edged the opening forward skirmish.

After Murley put the visitors on the board by stealing onto a loose bouncing pass on the edge of Ireland’s 22 and spinning clear, last year’s runners-up settled into an attacking rhythm and punched holes in Ireland’s defensive line almost at will.

The greatest damage came from Ted Hill, who reacted well to recollect a ball that almost spilt from his grasp and he powered onward over Ireland’s 10-metre line, offloading to Sam Maunder who in turn set number eight Tom Willis charging towards the post.

John Hodnett is tackled by Fraser Dingwall Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

As the night wore on, Ireland continually found the answer for such setbacks. Byrne scythed through a midfield gap and the support lines of Turner and Conor Phlllips took the hosts within inches of the line. Captain David Hawkshaw seemed to have an open run on to the left corner after play was switched, but he was proven right to cut back into traffic as it set up a pick-and-go phase which ended with Tierney-Martin rumbling over.

Decibel level up, but almost immediately flicked back down again as Josh Hodge beat Jake Flannery in a 50-50 aerial contest. Once he landed in stride, the fullback stepped inside Byrne and grounded under the posts. 10-21.

That was the second 11-point deficit Ireland faced on the night, but they ate into it with greater relish second time around, Byrne’s penalty narrowing the gap before Turner’s electric pace took him through the white wall. The nippy centre was snagged before the line, but the big boys went to work and Leinster’s Scott Penny cleverly planted the ball at the base of the post and suddenly we had a one-point game.

Harlequins starlet Marcus Smith kicked the scoreboard to 20-24 at half-time, but Ireland carried their momentum through the interval. A penalty kicked to the corner gave the maul a chance to show its worth and Thomas Clarkson touched down the night’s sixth try.

Thomas Clarkson celebrates scoring a try with teammates Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Clarkson celebrates his try. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The lead changed hands via the boot from there on in.

The game was on a knife-edge at 28-27 when the visitors attempted to turn up the pressure and duly eked a yellow card for replacement prop Michael Milne. Ireland were in a tight corner, pinned back against their try-line, yet they held their nerve to earn an escape route from the scrum.

Far from feeling the heat with 14 men, Ireland excelled and had the full wind in their sails when Milne returned, just in time to lay the platform for replacement scrum-half Cormac Foley to settle a barn-burner and give Ireland a bonus point victory. 

Harry Byrne kicks a penalty Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Harry Byrne kicked 15 points from the tee. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Scorers

Ireland

Tries: D Tierney-Martin, S Penny, T Clarkson, C Foley

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Conversions: H Byrne (3/4)

Penalties: H Byrne (3/4)

England

Tries: C Murley, T Willis, J Hodge

Conversions: M Smith (3/3)

Penalties: M Smith (1/1), T Hardwick (1/1)

Ireland U20 : Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Conor Phillips (Young Munster/Munster) ((Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster) ’75), Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster), David Hawkshaw (Clontarf/Leinster) (Sean French (Cork Constitution/Munster) ’48), Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster), Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster), Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) (Cormac Foley (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) ’71): Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster) (Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster) ’55), Dylan Tierney Martin (Corinthians/Connacht) (John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster) ’60), Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) (Brian Deeny (Clontarf/Leinster) ’77), Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht) (David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster) ’75), Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Scott Penny (UCD/Leinster), John Hodnett (UCC/Munster)

England U20:Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons), Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints) (Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors) ’55), Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers), Cadan Murley (Harlequins), Marcus Smith (Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks) ’47), Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs): Olly Adkins (Gloucester), Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs) (Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers) ’40), Joel Kpoku (Saracens), Alex Coles (Northampton Saints) (James Scott (Worcester Warriors)’60), Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), Tom Willis (Wasps) (Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs) ’70)

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