gold standard

Fierce 14-man effort unravels for Ireland U20 against Australia

Stewart Moore’s magic individual score gave Ireland hope of an upset, but the Junior Wallabies made their man advantage count.

Ireland 17

Australia 45

THE REACTION FROM Ryan Baird told a tale by itself.

Ryan Baird receives a red card Baird is issued red. Pablo Gasparini / INPHO Pablo Gasparini / INPHO / INPHO

The Ireland second row’s long-reaching arms suddenly retracted to his head as he rolled away after connecting with Australia U20 out-half Will Harrison.

Only 20 minutes on the clock, but with TMO Santiago Borsani insisting that contact from the fast-running lock was with the neck of the jinking 10, referee Christophe Ridley had no choice but to issue a red.

The instant remorse of Baird’s reaction will hopefully provide a strong mitigating factor when it comes time for the disciplinary panel to decide his punishment. It was by no means an instant gamechanger in this match as Noel McNamara’s 14 men dug incredibly deep to drag the Junior Wallabies into a fierce contest.

The Grand Slam-winners, today ending a seven-game winning streak, doggedly earned themselves an improbable 17-10 lead before the hour mark. Unfortunately, with the rigours of a four-day turnaround and rising midday Santa Fe temperatures beginning to tell as replacements rolled on, there was a cruel unravelling in store for Ireland as Australia forced the floodgates to open.

Three tries in five minutes from Isaac Lucas, Mark Nawaqanitawase and the galloping Nick Frost turned a potential shock into a gold-clad rout.

Jonathan Wren with Noah Lolesio Pablo Gasparini / INPHO Pablo Gasparini / INPHO / INPHO

An evenly-matched contest was nicely coming to the boil when Baird’s match was given an early end. Australia had a 3-0 lead, but centre Semisi Tupou was in the sin-bin for a high tackle on John Hodnett when Ireland’s gameplan had to radically change.

An ominous sign of things to come came with Sione Tui’s 23rd minute try in the left corner. But this Ireland squad never opened a script they haven’t instantly torn up.

Even with a seven-man pack, they resolved to tighten up their carrying game and they turned the tide at set-piece before mounting extended periods of pressure to test Australian resolve.

They met plenty of resistance, but Craig Casey sneaked his way in for a try five minutes before the break. Jake Flannery added the conversion to make it 10-7 at the interval, but in truth he was fortunate to have a second 40 to play after he escaped a card of any kind despite tipping prop Angus Bell right up to the horizontal.

Referee Ridley sounded like he was exercising quite a bit of sympathy as he found an explanation to avoid issuing a second red.

Ireland did their level best to make the most of whatever good fortune came their way. The third quarter was all theirs. The 14 men ploughed through phase after phase of pressure and dragging the best out of the gold defence, who successfully worked their way through a siege and got bodies underneath both Hodnett and Josh Wycherley when they did barge over the try-line.

A contentious reversed penalty when Ireland appeared to be running out of steam allowed Flannery level the scores at 10-apiece and, minutes later, the brilliant Stewart Moore looked like he had provided just enough magic to tilt the tie Ireland’s way.

Stewart Moore celebrates scoring a try Stewart Moore celebrates his sensational try. Pablo Gasparini / INPHO Pablo Gasparini / INPHO / INPHO

The powerful Ulster centre fended his way through Louth-bornAustralia scrum-half Michael McDonald and cut beyond Harrison before his power made blindside Harry Wilson look uncharacteristically weak in the tackle as Moore completed a sensational score from 50 metres out.

When Ireland forced a choke tackle decision on 61 minutes, it felt like another famous win was on the way for this group who have twice beaten England and world champions France. But there was a cruel correction on the way.

Australia’s attack got their act together while Ireland’s defence struggled to keep shape as replacements rolled in and Tupou did the leg work to set up the excellent fullback Lucas.

The 15 was soon running in open field again and his break was a double-tap for Irish hopes as he teed up Nawaqanitawase for the third of Australia’s six tries.

Angus Kernohan dejected after the game Angus Kernohan pats an opponent on the back post-match. Pablo Gasparini / INPHO Pablo Gasparini / INPHO / INPHO

From there on in, Ireland were a shadow of themselves. Nick Frost claimed a restart and stormed away towards halfway, shrugged off Flannery’s and rampage all the way to the line for a 70-metre score. Before the full-time whistle mercifully came he would cut loose for a second to make sure the salt was well and truly massaged in for Ireland.

McNamara’s men took a beating, for the first time since Scotland hit them for 45 last June, but after Tuesday’s bonus point win over England they have will have plenty to play for when they meet Italy in Wednesday’s final pool fixture.


Ireland U20

Tries: Casey, Moore
Conversions: Flannery (1/1), Healy (1/1)
Penalties: Flannery (1/1)

Australia U20

Tries: Tui, Lucas, Nawaqanitawase, Frost (2) Harrison
Conversions: Harrison (6/6)
Penalties Harrison (1/3) McDonald (0/1)

Ireland: Rob Russell (Ben Healy ’55), Angus Kernohan, Liam Turner, Stewart Moore Cormac Foley ’63), Jonathan Wren (Declan Adamson ’71), Jake Flannery, Craig Casey (Colm Reilly ’59); Josh Wycherley (Michael Milne ’55), Dylan Tierney-Martin (John McKee ’59), Thomas Clarkson, Charlie Ryan, Ryan Baird, David McCann, Ronan Watters, (Ciaran Booth ’17), John Hodnett (Niall Murray ’63).

Australia: Isaac Lucas, Sione Tui, Semisi Tupou (Kye Oates ’77), Noah Lolesio (Joey Walton ’77), Mark Nawaqanitawase, Will Harrison, Michael McDonald; Angus Bell, Lachlan Lonergan (Rhys Van Nek ’77), Josh Nasser, Michael Wood (Nick Frost ’55), Trevor Hosea (Esei Ha’angana ’72), Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight (Carlo Tizzano ’77), Will Harris (Pat Tafa ’71)

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