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Ryan Hiscott/INPHO England and Ireland U20s in action.
# Ireland U20s
Ireland U20s fail to win third successive Triple Crown after loss to England
Ireland’s defeat is their first in 11 games in the Under 20s Six Nations championship.



Garry Doyle reports

THERE WAS NO happy ending, no 11th straight victory for the Ireland Under 20s in this competition, no hat-trick of Triple Crowns. There is plenty of hope, though.

Nathan Doak, Alex Kendellen, Jamie Osborne, Cathal Forde, Sam Illo, Alex Soroka — remember the names. You will be hearing them again.

In fact, why stop there?

There is a lengthy list of players who stand a real chance of making it in the game, Paul Boyle being one of them, Shane Jennings another. That Ireland were competing for a third, straight Triple Crown at this age-range is significant because it has taken three different teams to carry the fight.

That tells its own story.

The story of this game, meanwhile, was one of many parts. England, unquestionably, deserved the win but so much of what Ireland did here was impressive, even if their ball-handling was anything but. Trailing for all bar the first 17 minutes of the game, they just never gave up.

Better again they put it up to a side who were physically bigger. Yes, they were out-muscled but they didn’t wave a white flag. You may not win points for that kind of attribute but you do get admirers.

Funnily enough, Ireland started well, controlling territory and possession in the opening 15 minutes, coming close to getting the lead when Doak’s 47 metre penalty drifted slightly wide of the posts.

England’s recovery stemmed initially from their aggression at the breakdown, their physical advantages also noticeable when they got their maul clicking into gear; Ireland achieving parity – save for one 35th minute shove – at the scrum in the first-half. The second period was a different story.

In midfield, Forde’s thirst for work was complemented by Jennings’ gliding and stepping but the flame-haired centre had to go off midway through the half for a HIA and Ireland’s attack suffered in his absence.

For the most part, England sought to win this match by sheer grunt. They were grateful for an entry to the Ireland 22 via a sloppy offside and once they got there, they took advantage, getting their maul on the march, leading to the only score of the half, via Nahum Merigan, who touched down in spite of intense Irish pressure.

You feared for Ireland at this stage, and continued to do so for the remainder of the half, England dictating the terms of the game, profiting from too many Irish knock-ons, and one offside after another. Eventually, Chris Cosgrave, the winger, was singled out on 36 minutes and sent to the bin.

And yet, there were moments of class, Osborne spinning one beautiful pass wide to Oisin McCormack whose carry took Ireland towards the England 22; Kendellen keeping the move alive with an additional burst before Ewan Richards forced a turnover.

Other things impressed, notably Ireland’s defence, which was organised and spirited, also their maul defence after that initial try, McCormack interrupting Alex Riley’s march to the line on 36 minutes.

A second try then would have been disastrous. That Ireland avoided it came down to attitude as much as technical prowess.

ireland-players-celebrate-england-turning-the-ball-over-on-their-own-try-line Ryan Hiscott / INPHO Ireland celebrate a turnover. Ryan Hiscott / INPHO / INPHO

Better again they had Jennings back for the start of the second-half although McCormack’s enforced withdrawal with injury was a considerable blow. Even in his absence, Ireland managed to reduce the gap to 7-3 when Doak landed a 35-metre penalty after Boyle, the replacement prop, had made his presence felt.

Things were briefly looking up. Kendellen won a turnover after Sam Riley had carried well but Ireland failed to find touch from the resulting penalty and they paid the price, Richards scoring out wide as Cosgrave’s absence was sorely felt. We had 47 minutes on the clock, England 12-3 Ireland.

Eight minutes later, the gap was up to 14, Richards getting his second try, after he was first to react to a loose, bouncing ball in the Irish midfield, kicking it ahead before he raced to the line for the score.

Ireland needed a lifeline and they got one when England’s first tryscorer, Merigan, was yellow-carded for hitting Kendellen with a shoulder. From the resulting penalty, Ireland had entry into England’s 22. Seconds later, they had their first try, an incredible 15-yard drive from the line-out maul, Soroka touching down, Doak adding the conversion.

There and then you sensed an opportunity. A quarter of the game remained, just seven points separating the sides.

Reality soon crashed in on Irish dreams, though, Riley crashing over from another maul, Smith converting, England now leading 24-10.

That you suspected would be that. But the resilience of this Irish team is admirable and the way they held their nerve, despite losing a number of players, including Kendellen and Boyle, to injury, has to be commended.

They even got the next try, Eoin de Buitléar with it, the maul again the source of, before de Buitléar scored off a subsequent phase. Time wasn’t on their side, though. This wasn’t their night.

Ireland scorers

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Tries: Soroka, E de Buitléar

Conversion: Doak (1/1) Forde (0/1)

Penalty: Doak (1/2)

England scorers

Tries: N Merigan, E Richards 2, Riley,

Conversions: F Smith (2/4)

Ireland: J Osborne; B Moxham, S Jennings (J Postlethwaite ’29-40) C Forde, C Cosgrave (J Postlethwaite for Cosgrave ‘57); T Corkery (B Carson ‘50), N Doak (C McKee ‘67); T Lasisi (J Boyle ’41 – E de Buitlear ’73 HIA), R Loughnane, S Illo (M Donnelly ’46, Illo ‘69); A Soroka, H Sheridan; D Byrne (D Okeke ’57), O McCormack (R Crothers ‘41), A Kendellen (D Byrne HIA, ’58 – J Kelleher ‘69). 

E de Buitlear for Boyle 73 mins (HIA). Yellow card: C Cosgrave ‘36; D Okeke ‘82

England: C Atkinson (O Bailey ‘70); T Litchfield (T Roebuck ‘46), J Bates, D Lancaster, A Relton; F Smith, J van Poortvliet; P Brantingham (T Haffar ‘61), S Riley (Harlequins), H Kindell-Beaton (L Green ‘66); A Clark (O Stonham ‘68), A Groves; E Richards (J Gray ‘78), J Clement, N Merigan. 

Yellow card: N Merigan ‘58

Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)

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