Dublin: 26°C Thursday 11 August 2022

England hold on for U20 Grand Slam despite ferocious Irish effort

Defence wins Championships and England’s withstood a St Patrick’s Day onslaught.

onny Stewart and Caelan Doris tackle Nick Isiekwe
onny Stewart and Caelan Doris tackle Nick Isiekwe
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland U20: 10

England U20: 14

Sean Farrell reports from Donnybrook

GRAND SLAMS DON’T come easy. And Ireland made England work a double defensive shift for their crown in Dublin tonight.

First-half tries from Jack Nay and Henry Walker ultimately gave England victory in the Six Nations finale, but the result had more to do with an outstanding defensive effort that withstood relentless pressure from Nigel Carolan’s men.

The visitors began on the hunt for scores, and pinned Ireland in their own third of the field for the opening 17 minutes.

The hosts defended doggedly in those early stages, clinically thwarting the sniping efforts of Harry Randall and forcing spillages. The scrambling efforts after the loose ball came up narrowly short, however, and England’s formidable pack were able to mount pressure until Nay grounded on the back of a powerful maul.

From there on in though, the territorial advantage was Ireland’s and the carrying efforts of Charlie Connolly and the line-breaking threat of Jordan Larmour helped build a concerted period of pressure.

England might have seen a man go to the bin in the 29th minute when Tom Curry – one half of a set of 18-year-old twins England deployed as flankers – tripped Caelan Doris. Ireland were unable to turn the screw off the penalty and Ben Curry and Tom Parton combined to force a breakdown penalty to finally relieve the pressure for the expectant visitors.

Tadgh McElroy carried Ireland back onto the front foot and forced a penalty which Bill Johnston slotted, but any sense that the gap was narrowing was short lived.

Having pummeled the formidable white defence for 20 hard-fought minutes, Carolan’s men fell 3 – 14 behind on the stroke of half-time as Walker took a scything line in the 22 and dotted down behind the posts.

Henry Walker scores his sides second try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With the rain coming down in the second half, it appeared as though the flood-gates were going to remain shut – particularly when sparkling breaks from Larmour and Tommy O’Brien were seen off. But Ireland’s work-rate never slipped and an impressive maul forced its way over the try-line only to be called back by referee Pierre Brousset.

Max Malins and Joe Cokanasiga with Gavin Mullin Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The onslaught was relentless and never deterred. With England unable to escape their territory Carolan released fresh forwards to pick and drive and power ever closer to the whitewash until Gavin Coombes rumbled over next to the posts for a 65th minute try.

A four point game, Ireland battered and probed for openings, and came within inches of victory as the clock turned red. Defence wins Championships, as the truism goes, and England’s gleaming white wall held just firm enough to complete the sweep.

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Tries: G Coombes

Conversions: B Johnston (1/1)

Penalties: B Johnston (1/1)


Tries: J Nay, H Walker

Conversions: M Malins (2/2)


15. Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College)
14. Tommy O’Brien (UCD RFC)
13. Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC / Leinster)
12. Ciaran Frawley (UCD RFC)
11. Calvin Nash (Young Munster) – Colm Hogan (Dublin University) (70 mins)
10. Bill Johnston (Garryowen) —  Conor Fitzgerald (Shannon RFC) (70 mins)
9. Jonny Stewart (Queen’s University) — Jack Stafford (Shannon) (60 mins)

1. Joey Conway (UL Bohemians) — Greg McGrath (Lansdowne) (77 mins)
2. Tadgh McElroy (Lansdowne FC) — Ronan Kelleher (UCD / Leinster) (52 mins)
3. Charlie Connolly (Dublin University) — Matthew Burke (Corinthians ) (52 mins)
4. Fineen Wycherley (Young Munster)
5. Oisin Dowling (Lansdowne FC) — Gavin Coombes (Young Munster) (32 mins)
6. John Foley (Shannon RFC) — Jack Regan (UCD RFC) (63 mins)
7. Paul Boyle (Lansdowne FC)
8. Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College)


15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Dominic Morris (Saracens)
13. Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish)
12. Will Butler (Worcester Warriors) Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie) (50 mins)
11. Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)
10. Max Malins (Saracens)
9. Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby)

1. Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby) Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens) (50 mins)
2. Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby)
3. Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby) Joseph Morris (Worcester Warriors) (50 mins)
4. Jack Nay (Saracens) Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby) (58 mins)
5. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens)
6. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)
7. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks) Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons) (74 mins)
8. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) captain.

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Sean Farrell

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