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Prendergast's late penalty sends Ireland U20s to stunning win over England

Richie Murphy’s side squeezed past England in a thrilling encounter in Verona.

Prendergast (right) nailed the winning penalty.
Prendergast (right) nailed the winning penalty.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

Ben Hart reports from Verona

OUT-HALF SAM Prendergast landed a late penalty from long range to hand the Ireland U20s a thrilling 37-36 win over England at the Six Nations Summer Series in Verona.

Fionn Gibbons, James McCormick, and Lorcan McLoughlin all scored tries for Ireland in what was a brilliant game, while they were also awarded a penalty try.

Leinster man Prendergast, the younger brother of Connacht and Ireland back row Cian, kicked 15 points in total, with his last-gasp penalty grabbing victory for Richie Murphy’s side following defeats to France and South Africa earlier in the competition in Italy.

Despite the excellent result, Ireland finished bottom of Pool A, with England, who started the day in third, picking up a try and losing bonus point to carry them above France and into second.

But it was a welcome victory for Murphy’s side after losing their opening two fixtures. They’ll play the losers of Scotland and Georgia in a seventh-place play-off next Tuesday. 

Ireland’s strong finish against South Africa offered promise of a good start here but within five minutes any hopes of a commanding early lead were extinguished. 

George Hendy was the first to cross as Ireland ran out of defenders on their own line. 

From a lineout drive the ball found its way to England fly-half Fin Smith. The Worcester Warriors star nearly let the ball slip from his grasp but just managed to find Iwan Stephens before he teed up full-back Hendy for the simplest of finishes.

reuben-crothers-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Ireland U20 captain Reuben Crothers. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

It was soon two, with a score in the same corner, this time with Alex Harmes on his first start in the competition coasting home for the score. 

A looping miss-pass from Ethan Grayson gave Harmes a free run at the Irish line with appeals for a forward pass were swiftly waved away by referee Federico Vedovelli.

But Ireland replied quickly with England guilty of trying to run the ball out of their own half from the restart. 

Lorcan McLoughlin broke through two weak challenges before playing a simple inside ball to Fionn Gibbons with the centre crossing for his second try of the tournament.

The England defence was again found wanting shortly after, allowing hooker James McCormick to score from close-range with little resistance. 

Prendergast, who is still U19, was successful from the tee for the second time, bringing the score to 14-all after a chaotic opening quarter. 

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And a remarkable early turnaround was complete when a penalty try went Ireland’s way after Rekeiti Ma’asi-White was adjudged to have stopped a certain score for Dylan O’Grady with a high tackle. 

And just as England had quickly surrendered their advantage, so too did Ireland. England’s Lewis Chessum was next to score, charging down Andrew O’Mahony’s box-kick.

reuben-crothers-dives-in-as-the-team-celebrate-after-the-game The Ireland squad in Verona. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

The first-half chaos continued, with McLoughlin capitalising on more lacklustre England defending before Prendergast’s cool conversion brought the opening period to a close at 28-19. 

Prendergast then added an early penalty after the break to extend Ireland’s lead before England prop Mikey Summerfield pushed over from the back of a lineout drive and Stephens dived over in the corner to level the scores at 31-31. 

England were converting chances Ireland were failing to and while Prendergast added another three points, the Red Rose were still finding the line, and it was Hendy who crossed for their sixth after a cross-kick from Smith.

But Prendergast had the last say, saving his best kick for last with a tremendous boot from halfway to seal Ireland’s victory just three minutes from time. 

The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series takes place from 24 June – 12 July. Fans can watch every match live

About the author:

Ben Hart

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