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Sensational Crowley try helps Ireland to winning start in U20 Six Nations

Both sides earned bonus points, but the Cork Con playmaker ensured the defending champions were a cut above.

Ireland U20: 38

Scotland U20: 26

A WINDY NIGHT on Leeside and the reigning champions’ first match was fluttering along in a fine back-and-forth rhythm until the hometown 10 grabbed the match by its scruff and took charge.

With Ireland leading 14-12 and Scotland mounting another energetic attack, a spilled ball was batted back in the 22 by this year’s captain David McCann.

Jack Crowley, out-half to Cork Con and a former Bandon schoolboy, picked up the bouncing ball scarcely 15 metres from his own line. In the month he turned 20, Crowley lit up Musgrave Park with a devastating step through contact on the 22 and hared away off up the right flank.

He looked inside for support. It was coming, but not as fast as the covering defender Ollie Smith, who was greeted with a powerful fend that had the ground hopping as Ireland took a 21-12 lead into the interval.

Suddenly there seemed no way back for Scotland as Andrew Smith and Thomas Ahern left the scoreboard reading 33-12 with over 30 minutes remaining.

ollie-smith-and-ethan-mcilroy Ulster's Ethan McIlroy set a feisty tone in defence. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Crowley will rightly take a lot of the limelight after this win, the performance was rooted in a gutsy pack effort, where all five of the starting year 2 veterans could be found, and the powerful midfield combination of Hayden Hyde and Dan Kelly.

The solid scrum platform laid by Charlie Ward and Tom Clarkson gave Ireland the confidence to forego a straightforward early penalty in front of the posts in favour of chasing the maximum score. They got their reward as Oran McNulty entered the line, slipped the ball to a charging Kelly. The centre’s offload went to ground, but Crowley met the bounce on the run and cruised over the whitewash before adding his own conversion.

The contest threatened to descend into a tit-for-tat affair as hooker Ewan Ashman’s rampage to the line was met with a concerted Irish response that led to a try to Tom Clarkson.

Noel McNamara’s pack was put to the test on defence, but after battling admirably without the ball on scrum and maul five metres from their own line, the pressure cranked up by the impressive 10 Nathan Chamberlain told in the shape of a try for Jack Blain five minutes before the interval.

jack-crowley-scores-his-sides-third-try Crowley crosses for his magnificent second try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Crowley was not to be overshadowed on this showcase night on national TV. His try seemed to set the temp0 for what was to follow from Ireland after the restart while simultaneously sucking belief from the visitors.

Smith raced over to seal Ireland’s bonus point just four minutes into the second half after latching onto an excellent Sean O’Brien offload. And the reigning champions looked every bit of their billing as they tacked on a fifth try before 50 minutes was on the clock.

Ulster booker Tom Stewart blasted his way to a break down the right wing and hit his support runner with a nicely-timed pass. 6’9″ lock Ahern wasn’t the trail runner he might have expected, but the lock galloped towards the line with impressive pace. And, though caught, you could hardly ask for a better man to finish with one big reach to the line.

thomas-ahern-scores-his-sides-fifth-try Big Tom Ahern at full stretch. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Crowley’s copybook was finally blotted by that tricky fifth conversion attempt from the right-hand touchline. There was no tarnishing his 18-point return, but McNamara will be keen to pick through his sides’ defensive effort in the second half as Chamberlain and Cameron Scott crossed to grab a losing try bonus for the visitors.

Crowley was called ashore before Ireland completed their scoring with a sixth try coming from replacement prop Ciaran Ryan.

They are yet to be defeated in Cork since making the move here last year. And, on this evidence, McNamara’s young men should be confident of continuing that streak when Wales come calling next week.

Scorers

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Ireland

Tries: J Crowley (2), T Clarkson, A Smith, T Ahern, C Ryan

Conversions: J Crowley (4/5), T Corkery (0/1)

Scotland

Tries: E Ashman, J Blain, N Chamberlain, C Scott

Conversions: N Chamberlain (3/4)

IRELAND: Oran McNulty; Ethan McIlroy, Dan Kelly, Hayden Hyde (Luis Faria ’50), Andrew Smith; Jack Crowley (Tim Corkery ’74), Lewis Finlay (Ben Murphy ’76); Charlie Ward (Ciaran Ryan ’58), Tom Stewart (John McKee ’58), Thomas Clarkson (Ryan McMahon ’75), Brian Deeny, Thomas Ahern (Joe McCarthy ’64), Sean O’Brien, Mark Hernan (Alexis Soroka ’74), David McCann

SCOTLAND: Ollie Smith; Jacob Henry, Matthew Currie, Robbie McCallum, Jack Blain (Rufus McLean ’45); Nathan Chamberlain (Cameron Scott ’76), Roan Frostwick (Kyle McGhie ’65); Alex Maxwell (George Breese ’65), Ewan Ashman (Rory Jackson ’78), Dan Gamble, Kieran Watt, Cameron Henderson (Gregor Brown ’65), Jack Hill, Connor Boyle, Rory Darge.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)

About the author:

Sean Farrell  / Reports from Musgrave Park

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