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Ireland U20s get Six Nations campaign over to perfect start with 6-try win

Ireland defeated Scotland 38-7 in the opening game of the Six Nations.

Alex Soroka celebrates a turnover.
Alex Soroka celebrates a turnover.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Ireland U20s 38

Scotland U20s 7

Garry Doyle reports

IT IS NO surprise when you hear Under 20 players, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, saying they hope to emulate those who have gone before them.

“Yes, but we have big boots to fill,” said the Ireland captain, Alex Kendellen, at yesterday’s press conference. Well, today he and his team went about trying them on for size.

Their win, courtesy of six tries, was fully deserved, albeit made considerably easier by the 41st minute red card shown to the Scottish openside, Harri Morris, who was correctly penalised for taking out the Ireland full back, Jamie Osborne, in the air.

From there, the result was not in question, Sam Illo – the hugely powerful as well as hugely impressive tighthead – crashed over for Ireland’s third try just two minutes later and the psychological impact of this double whammy was massive on the Scots.

The first-half told a different story. Despite Ireland’s brilliant start – Alex Soroka crossing from short range on three minutes after great carries by Josh O’Connor on the wing and Oisin McCormack and Shane Jennings thereafter – Scotland stayed competitive in most sectors and had dominant periods of their own.

A few of their players look serious prospects. Patrick Harrison, their hooker who has already debuted for Edinburgh, ticks just about every box; Alex Samuel, their captain and 6’9 second-row, reminds you of Devin Toner and not just because he’s super tall. He’s super talented, too.

You can say the same about their scrum-half Murray Redpath, son of Bryan. He had a major influence on the first-half and was surprisingly substituted early in the second.

As for Ireland, they too have a conveyor belt of talent coming out of the talent factory. Illo and his fellow prop, openside Temi Lasisi, showed quality in the loose as well as devastating power in the scrum; Osborne was assured under the high ball; Cathal Forde had a fine game in the centre while Kendellen, the No8 from Cork, was the game’s best player.

When you add in the fact Ireland had the superior scrum, were better conditioned, had greater depth among their replacements and also had an effective attacking maul, you can see why the result was so comprehensive.

Still, after 35 minutes, it was level at 7-7, Scotland cancelling out Soroka’s early try by getting one of their own on 21 minutes when Elliot Gourley gathered Cameron Scott’s clever little grubber to touch down next to the posts. Scott converted and there was an immediate injection of confidence into the Scottish veins.

For the next 15 minutes, they were very good, especially on their own set-piece, Samuel’s height giving them an obvious target. But there was more to their game than that. Redpath and Scott were playing with confidence, Ireland relying on the quality of their defence, which stood up at their biggest moments of crisis.

Kendellen, it must be said, was huge in this period, not just by his willingness to carry into contact, but also by his ability to win an early turnover and offload in the tackle. Credit too has to go to the Irish strength and conditioning team. They had their boys fitter than the Scots – although it is easier to look fresher when you have a man advantage for 39 minutes.

In fact there was a six-minute period at the start of the second-half when Ireland were facing just 13 Scots – Michael Gray sent to the bin on 37 minutes after he tackled McCormack without the ball just as the Buccaneers flanker was about to touch down.

With a penalty try awarded, Ireland had a 14-7 lead and never looked back. Indeed, after Harris sent Osborne flying through the Cardiff sky on 41 minutes, the result was never in doubt. The only question was how much Ireland would win by.

A 31-point margin was the answer, the tries coming at periodic intervals in the second half, Illo crashing over to make it 19-7; Kendellen getting the score his performance deserved after a technically brilliant maul offered the skipper the chance to touch down. He took it. So, 55 minutes played, Ireland 24-7 Scotland.

alex-kendellen-is-presented-with-the-under-20-six-nations-player-of-the-match-award Kendellen gets his player of the match award. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Soon it would be 31-7, Jennings with this score, when the centre delivered a great dummy, profiting from having Forde on his inside, Kendellen on his outside. Tim Corkery’s conversion was sweet; Ireland’s reaction was a tad sour when Jennings had a 69th minute try ruled out for an unclear grounding.

Still, it didn’t really matter. They really shone in the second-half, their replacement front row enjoying even more dominance in the scrum than the starting trio; Osborne finishing things off on 77 minutes when he finished on the left after Jennings had initiated the move on the right. Ireland look good but tougher tests await.

a-view-of-a-scrum Ireland's scrum was superior. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO



Tries: Soroka, Penalty Try, Ilo, Kendellen, Jennings, Osborne 

Conversions: Humphreys (1/1), Corkery (2/4)

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Tries:  Gourlay

Conversions: Scott (1/1)

Scotland: O Melville; F Callaghan (rep: R Talt ’45), S King, E Gourlay, M Gray, C Scott (rep: C Townsend ’60), M Redpath (rep: McVicker ’46), C Lamberton (rep: Drummond ’50), P Harrison (rep: Jones ’50), O Frostick (G Breese 46), M Williamson, A Samuel (rep: E Ferrie ’72), A Smeaton (O Leatherbarrow 60), H Morris (red card ’42), B Muncaster. 

Replacements not used: R Jackson, T Glendinning, R McKnight. 

Ireland: J Osborne; B Moxham, S Jennings, C Forde, J O’Connor (rep: C Cosgrave ’55), J Humphreys (rep: T Corkery ’40), C McKee (rep: W Reilly ’63), T Lasisi (rep: J Boyle ’58), R Loughnane (rep: E de Buitlear ’61), S Illo (rep: M Donnelly ’58), M Morrissey, H Sheridan, A Soroka (rep: R Crothers ’47), O McCormack (rep: D Byrne ’58), A Kendellen. 

Replacements not used: J Kelleher, B Carson, D Okeke.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy).  


About the author:

Garry Doyle

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