well beaten

Ireland U20s mauled by Scotland to end Six Nations in disappointment

Nigel Carolan’s side paid the price for an error-strewn display in which their set-piece struggled.

Scotland 17

Ireland 10

Murray Kinsella reports from Netherdale

IRELAND’S U20 SIX Nations campaign ended on a majorly disappointing note as they conceded three tries to Scotland’s dominant maul to lose 17-10.

Nick Timoney tackled by Patrick Kelly Dan Sheridan / INPHO Nick Timoney attempts to bludgeon his way through Scotland's defence. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

More frustrating than those three scores was the error count from a side who pride themselves on a high skill level, while a poor start to the game ultimately proved to be disastrous.

Ireland’s talented backline again sparkled despite a lack of consistent set-piece possession, with Munster’s Stephen Fitzgerald and Leinster fullback Billy Dardis particularly impressing thanks to their threat in attack.

However, the Scottish pack were far too good for their Irish counterparts, winning the lineout battle, destroying the visitors’ scrum at times and scoring those three tries from close-range mauls. Ireland’s pack simply had no answer.

Having started this Six Nations with wins over Italy and France in which their complete attacking game stood out, the last three fixtures of the competition have seen Carolan’s side lose to England, Wales and now the Scots.

Despite their individual reputations and those promising early displays, this goes down as a losing campaign in terms of results. Carolan has always insisted that this age grade is about developing players for the professional game, rather than just winning, and there were indeed strides made by several players.

That said, the mistakes and set-piece issues in Scotland mean Ireland will break on something of a sour note before beginning preparations for the Junior World Championship in Italy in June.

Ireland’s poor start in this game came from the very first kick-off, as captain Nick McCarthy knocked-on and allowed Scotland to launch an early attack.

Failure to roll away at the ruck by Carolan’s side saw Scotland kick into the right corner, from where they set their powerful maul into action, skipper and number eight Magnus Bradbury dotting down at the tail.

Stephen Fitzgerald Dan Sheridan / INPHO Stephen Fitzgerald was superb for Ireland in defeat. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Scrum-half George Horne converted to leave the home side 7-0 up with just three minutes on the clock, and matters did not improve for Ireland from there.

Lineout misfires, forward passes, a back-peddling scrum and a clear frustration among the players suggested Ireland were in for a tough evening.

Two late changes to the front row before kick off – Jeremy Loughman and Zak McCall dropping out for Michael Lagan and Adam McBurney – was far from ideal, and the scrum gave up a 10th-minute penalty that Horne pulled wide.

A scything linebreak from left wing Fitzgerald briefly lifted Ireland, the Shannon man showing rapid footwork and searing pace to race 50 metres upfield, before tighthead prop Conan O’Donnell knocked on to end the promising passage.

A turnover penalty won by Ulster’s McBurney in a superb jackal position provided out-half Ross Byrne with Ireland’s first shot at goal soon after, but the usually-reliable UCD playmaker was wide to the left from 40 metres out.

The relatively experienced Ciarán Gaffney then failed to deal with a wide kick from Scotland out-half Rory Hutchinson, allowing the ball to bounce and the impressive Alec Coombes gathered to race into Ireland’s 22 and draw a penalty.

Into the corner, maul rolling again, Scotland’s second try.

This time it was lock Lewis Carmichael who dotted down, Horne wide with the conversion to leave it at 12-0 with only a quarter gone.

Ireland’s response was to look to their talented backline and it was a threatening dart from fullback Dardis that resulted in another Ireland penalty, Byrne slotting his effort this time.

Garry Ringrose tackled by Ben Rogers and Alec Coombes Dan Sheridan / INPHO Garry Ringrose's footwork was good again, but he couldn't break through. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Good hits from Gaffney and David O’Connor followed on the next defensive set to force a knock-on, but then the Irish front row was massacred, marched metres back up the pitch before the penalty came.

No surprise – into the corner Scotland went, but this time Ireland found the mettle to resist, the Scots accidentally going offside as they set a platform. Ireland’s scrum then held up well, and one sensed the visiting pack was growing into this game.

Cue this lauded Ireland U20s backline bursting fully into life.

With 33 minutes gone, Ireland’s lineout provided quality possession and Byrne found Gaffney on a clever screen pass to burst between Scotland’s centres 40 metres out. The Connacht wing linked with Garry Ringrose, who found Dardis and then the fullback fed Fitzgerald on the touchline.

Again, the former Ardscoil Rís star showed pure speed to eat up the remaining 15 metres and gallop in around under the posts. Byrne popped over the extra two points and suddenly Ireland were back in a game they’d been dominated in.

Scotland had one further chance to maul in the last two minutes of the half, but McBurney produced a sublime hold up to turn the ball over and relieve the pressure.

The interval seemed to have served Ireland well as they came out of the blocks in impressive fashion, Ringrose, Nick Timoney and Lorcan Dow all carrying well in a multi-phase attack in the Scotland 22 before Josh Murphy lost possession.

Ringrose looked to link with the ever-lively Dardis at every available opportunity, and that pair conspired to send Sam Arnold down the left touchline to chip forward and win a penalty when Scotland came offside. Byrne’s attempt at goal, however, fell short.

But Ireland were enjoying strong field position now, McCarthy sniping through for a notable linebreak, then Byrne dinking a clever chip behind the onrushing Scotland defence for Fitzgerald to almost gather and score.

The Ireland team line up Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ireland now face into the JWC in Italy in June. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Instead, Scotland wing Ben Robbins carried back over his own tryline and Ireland were awarded the scrum. Dow battered close, before his fellow forwards took over with short carries. Inside centre Arnold stretched out a paw for the tryline, but knocked-on in the process and the opportunity was missed.

Changes in the front row didn’t halt Scotland’s bettering of Ireland in that domain, but Ireland’s main problem in the third quarter was converting those spells of possession into points.

Scotland had had their warning served and went back into Ireland territory, where they thought they’d scored in the right corner through Robbins. Fortunately for Ireland, the assisting offload from the imposing Bradbury was ruled forward.

Carolan sent Jacob Stockdale, Conor Young and Joey Carberry onto the pitch as McCarthy and Dardis retired through injury, but Ireland simply couldn’t manufacture the consistent pressure they needed to apply.

The set-piece issues continued, a 61st-minute scrum penalty aside, and Scotland looked far more comfortable that their 12-10 lead suggested.

A darting break from Horne with 10 minutes remaining brought the Scots to within metres of the tryline and when second row O’Connor failed to roll away at the ruck, referee Tom Foley sent him to the sin bin.

Into the corner, and no prizes for guessing the outcome. Carmichael took the honours again for the pack effort, though Horne was narrowly off target with his conversion effort.

Fitzgerald continued to create space for players around him into the closing minutes, twice firing excellent left-handed passes wide to the right.

A painful-looking shoulder injury to replacement lock Jack Dwan even saw Ireland’s numbers further reduced though, and they couldn’t find the equalising score they probably didn’t deserve on the balance of play.

Scotland scorers:

Tries: Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael [2]

Conversions: George Horne [1 from 3]

Penalties: George Horne [0 from 1]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Stephen Fitzgerald

Conversions: Ross Byrne [1 from 1]

Penalties: Ross Byrne [1 from 3]

SCOTLAND U20: Ruairi Howarth; Ben Robbins, Tom Galbraith (Archie Russell ’53), Patrick Kelly, Alec Coombes; Rory Hutchinson, George Horne; Murray McCallum (Dan Elkington ’56), Sam James (Ross Graham ’64), Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings (Andrew Davidson ’71), Lewis Carmichael; Neil Irvine-Hess, Ally Miller (Ruairi Knott ’67), Magnus Bradbury (capt.).

Replacements not used: Gary Robertson, Ben Vellacott, Ruaraidh Smith.

IRELAND U20: Billy Dardis (Joey Carberry ’64); Ciarán Gaffney, Garry Ringrose, Sam Arnold (Jacob Stockdale ’60), Stephen Fitzgerald; Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy (capt.) (Conor Young ’63); Michael Lagan (Andrew Porter ’53), Adam McBurney, Conan O’Donnell (Oisin Heffernan ’53); David O’Connor, Alex Thompson (Jack Dwan ’69); Josh Murphy, Nick Timoney (Stephen McVeigh ’69), Lorcan Dow.

Replacements not used: Zak McCall.

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