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Clinical Ireland U20s take bonus point in Italy to sustain winning run in Six Nations

Shannon scrum-half Craig Casey grabbed two tries to keep Ireland on course for a Grand Slam.

Italy U20: 14

Ireland U20: 34

DEFENCE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, the old saying goes. And Ireland made it three wins from three in this Six Nations campaign thanks to the platform they laid without the ball.

Tries from Scott Penny, David Hawkshaw and a brace from Craig Casey keep Ireland clear at the top of the table. So although Noel McNamara will have his men chewing over the concession of two late tries after the result was all but secure, he has pushed this group nine points clear in the standings – albeit with results to come from Wales and France later this evening.

The contest in Rieti was a far cry from last season’s madcap 38-34 shoot-out in Donnybrook as Ireland had to battle through a first-half with little in the way of possession or territory and under immense pressure from Italy.

Once in scoring range though, Ireland barely missed a beat.

Liam Turner tackled by Edoardo Mastandrea Liam Turner on the attack. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

In attack, Ireland’s scrum set the stall for the visitors and Josh Wycherley, Dylan Tierney-Martin and Thomas Clarkson consistently found the upper hand at set-piece through the first half.

Having had a sighter moments earlier off the back of his dominant pack’s work, Byrne attempted to break for the try-line off a ninth minute scrum. He was denied just before the whitewash, but his half-back partner Casey was on hand to sneak the pill the remaining inches.

The young Azzurri responded well, with Matteo Drudi leading a bullish attack. The blue maul was destructive, but Ireland had a robust resistance in the shape of Martin Moloney, Charlie Ryan, Niall Murray and the front row.

When Italy did mine a penalty call, out-half Paolo Garbisi found himself trying to go wide early on the advantage and his cross-field kicks were comfortably dealt with by Angus Kernohan and Jake Flannery.

The fullback’s high-fielding and counter-attacking runs helped take Ireland out of their own territory and from under the cosh. 25 minutes were on the clock when another big scrummaging effort 30 metres out gave Byrne the chance to extend the lead and he did not pass it up.

Ireland players celebrate a try Ireland celebrate Scott Penny's try. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Ireland turned the screw again before half-time, proving clinical in the 22 after Italy had come away empty handed. John Hodnett and Tierney-Martin made big carries into heavy contact near the try-line before Penny smartly burrowed his way towards the post pad to make Ireland’s half-time advantage 17-0.

While Byrne did see errors in open play, he was flawless off the tee and pushed Ireland  out to 20-0 after a big break from David Hawkshaw opened the second half. Italy fired back with a thrilling line-break of their own, but Flannery did superbly to stand and slow the progress of rampaging loosehead Drudi until support arrived.

It all began to unravel a bit for Italy after that point. Drudi was replaced 15 minutes into the second period, and his understudy Luca Franceschetto lasted mere minutes on the field before picking up a yellow card. Ireland made hay in his absence, eating up yards with pick and drives before Casey sniped over for his second.

Martin Moloney bloodied during the game Martin Moloney was bloodied during the first-half. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Debutants Billy Scannell, Callum Reid, Ronan Watters and Ben Healy were introduced either side of Matteo Nocera’s riposte. But once the bonus point was within Ireland’s reach, there was little doubt this group would snap up the chance.

Fittingly enough, it was the tenacious captain Hawkshaw who delivered the fourth try, busting onto Cormac Foley pass before carrying two tacklers across the try-line with him.

The table-toppers will face France in a tantalising clash in Cork in two weeks’ time.



Tries: M Nocera, D Ruggeri

Conversions:  P Garbisi (2/2)


Tries: C Casey (2), S Penny, D Hawkshaw

Conversions: H Byrne (3/3), B Healy (1/1)

Penalties: H Byrne (2/2)

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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