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Wingers Byrne and Kelleher star as Ireland U20s enjoy Italian appetiser

Mike Ruddock’s charges are on course for a return to winning ways.

Cian Kelleher runs in Ireland's opening try.
Cian Kelleher runs in Ireland's opening try.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ireland U20s 18

Italy U20s 0

IRELAND UNDER 20s were far too good for a ragged Italian side at Dubarry Park in Athlone. Mike Ruddock’s U20s were clear winners in the appetiser for a weekend of Six Nations encounters against Italy. Leinster wingers Cian Kelleher and Adam Byrne scored the tries that set the visitors on their heels.

Ireland went 3-0 up early in the piece as Ross Byrne slotted over a penalty. Play was then held up for several minutes as fullback David Busby received treatment after shipping a heavy tackle. Leinster replaced Ulster as Harrison Brewer came on in place of the shaken Busby.

Italy’s tryline was breached after 15 minutes as Rory Burke and Max Abbott combined well in a pre-planned lineout move. Inside centre Peter Robb made ground in the 22 before Byrne found right winger Kelleher, who dropped a shoulder inside his man and sauntered over on the left flank. Byrne converted and Ireland settled into the tie, going 13-0 up when No.8 Jack O’Donoghue’s strong run led to a 21st minute penalty.

Peter Dooley with Federico, Gabriele De Santis and Simome Ferrari Ireland's Peter Dooley with Federico, Gabriele De Santis and Simome Ferrari. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Byrne forced a penalty, which he missed on 25 minutes, when he was not released in the tackle by Marco Lazzaroni. Kelleher provided the highlight of the first half as he broke 50 metres up-field from his own 22. Ireland kept the attack alive and Byrne put in a well judged kick behind the Italian defence, with Brewer pulling the Italian winger out of play to set up a 5m Irish line-out. Ireland secured the ball and Byrne put in a grubber kick that outside centre Dan Goggin really should have touched town. He knocked on, however, and the chance was lost.

The Italian pack earned a penalty early in the second half as the home pack were marched backwards in maul defence. Italian out-half Philip Buscema missed a relatively simple shot at the posts. A scuffle, on 43 minutes, between Kelleher and Buscema was spotted by the touch judge and both players were sent to the sin bin.

Kelleher returned to the pitch and almost scored with his first touch but was just held up. Ireland had numbers out wide and both Byrne and Goggin were involved as Adam Byrne dotted down in the righthand corner. Out-half Byrne missed a conversion from the right touchline and traded penalty misses with Buscema before Goggins took over the kicking duties. His one attempt was wide of the mark and, try as they might, Ireland could not keep the scoreboard ticking in the closing stages.

Ireland U20: D Busby (Harrison Brewer); C Kelleher, D Goggin, P Robb, A Byrne (C McKeon), R Byrne, N McCarthy (J Cullen): P Dooley (D Coulson), M Abbott (S McNulty), R Burke (O Heffernan); S O’Brien (capt.) (S Gardiner), R Molony; P Timmins (F Taggart), R Moloney, J O’Donoghue.

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Patrick McCarry

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