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Larmour's second-half brace hands Ireland U20s thrilling Six Nations win in Italy

Nigel Carolan’s men hung on for a one-point win this evening.

Larmour darts through for his second try.
Larmour darts through for his second try.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Italy U20s 26

Ireland U20s 27

WHAT AN INCREDIBLE game of rugby.

For the second week running, Nigel Carolan’s Ireland U20s edged a thrilling Six Nations contest to make it two one-point wins from two in this year’s Championship.

Jordan Larmour’s second-half brace of tries and Tommy O’Brien’s late score proved decisive as the visitors hung on at the death to prevail by the narrowest of margins and keep their Grand Slam tilt on track.

Johnny McPhillips’ boot had given Ireland the half-time lead but the game exploded into life after the interval with both sides running in three tries during an end-to-end encounter at Stadio Enrico Chersoni.

Larmour’s efforts appeared to have given Ireland some breathing space with 13 minutes remaining but the home side — coached by Alessandro Troncon — weren’t prepared to surrender easily and hit back on two separate occasions to set-up a grandstand finale.

But, just like in Scotland seven days ago, Ireland showed their resolve to grind out the win under the most testing of circumstances against a strong home side.

The Italians, who dominated for large periods, threw everything at Ireland but Carolan’s charges managed to stand firm even when Fineen Wycherley was sent to the bin with four minutes remaining.

The Ireland pack Ireland celebrate at full-time. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

“Delighted to get the win,” Larmour said afterwards. “Jeez it was very hard out there. The crowd and everything around us, the surroundings and they just made it very tough for us.

“We started well, got off the line, we fell off a times but half time we regrouped and got back out there and got the job done so we’re delighted with the win.”

Ireland had enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and that was reflected on the scoreboard when McPhillips gave his side an early lead from the tee.

By the time the Ulster out-half knocked over his second penalty shortly after the half hour mark, the Italians had settled into proceedings and were causing the Irish defence serious problems.

Larmour was forced to show another side to his game with two crucial try-saving tackles as Ireland found themselves stretched.

The home side were incredibly powerful up front and Ireland struggled to get out of their 22 for an extended period either side of the interval, at which point they somehow led 6-3.

Charlie Connolly Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Having absorbed all the pressure, and most significantly kept the door shut, Ireland pounced at the other end in the 41st minute thanks to a moment of individual brilliance from Larmour.

The Leinster winger is one of the most exciting talents in this year’s squad and demonstrated his ability to snuff out a chance and then finish clinically after latching onto the bouncing ball near halfway.

The former St Andrew’s College student showed incredible pace and power to ghost past the last line of blue shirts and dot down in the corner, with McPhillips slotting over the conversion from the touchline.

Antonio Rizzi’s boot kept the home side within touch and then the pressure eventually told as hooker Massimo Ceciliani finished off after Ireland were unable to deal with the driving maul.

After another Rizzi penalty had put the Italians into a 14-13 lead with 20 minutes remaining, Ireland responded in emphatic fashion as Larmour again provided the moment of magic.

Ireland were patient in attack and having recycled possession through the phases, threw it out wide where McPhillips’ pass opened the door for Larmour to scythe through. There was no stopping him from there.

Jordan Larmour celebrates after scoring a try Larmour celebrates. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

There was more drama to come, however. Marco Zanon powered his way over from close range to bring the hosts within a point again and although O’Brien’s charge-down score appeared to settle the tie, the Italians kept coming back at Ireland.

Wycherley’s sin-binning was followed by another driving maul try but time was against Italy as Ireland controlled the last few minutes to come away with a hard-fought win.

Italy U20s scorers:
Tries: Massimo Ceciliani, Marco Zanon, Alberto Rollero
Penalties: Antonio Rizzi [3 from 3]
Conversions: Antonio Rizzi [1 from 3]
Ireland U20s scorers:
Tries: Jordan Larmour [2], Tommy O’Brien
Penalties: Johnny McPhillips [2 from 3]
Conversions: Johnny McPhillips [2 from 2], Conor Fitzgerald [1 from 1]

ITALY: Massimo Cioffi (S.S. Lazio Rugby 1927); Andrea Bronzini (Rugby Viadana 1970), Ludovico Vaccari (UR Capitolina), Marco Zanon (Mogliano Rugby), Dario Schiabel (Lafert San Donà); Antonio Rizzi (Mogliano Rugby), Charly Vincenzo Ernst Trussardi (Clermont Auvergne); Daniele Rimpelli (Patarò Calvisano), Massimo Ceciliani (Delebio Rugby), Marco Riccioni (Patarò Calvisano) (capt), Giordano Baldino (Mogliano Rugby), Gabriele Venditti (S.S. Lazio Rugby 1927), Jacopo Bianchi (Vasari Arezzo), Lorenzo Masselli (Sitav Rugby Lyons), Giovanni Licata (Miraglia Rugby).

Replacements: Alberto Rollero (Sitav Rugby Lyons), Danilo Fischetti (Unione Rugby Capitolina), Giosuè Zilocchi (Sitav Rugby Lyons), Edoardo Iachizzi (Perpignan), Nardo Casolari (S.S. Lazio Rugby 1927), Emilio Fusco (Stade Aurillacois), Michelangelo Biondelli (FEMI-CZ Rovigo), Roberto dal Zilio (Patarò Calvisano).

IRELAND: Colm Hogan (Dublin University/Munster); Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Gavin Mullin (UCD/Leinster), Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster), Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster); Johnny McPhillips (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Jonny Stewart (Queen’s University/Ulster); Joey Conway (UL Bohemians/Munster), Tadgh McElroy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Charlie Connolly (Dublin University/Leinster), Fineen Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Oisin Dowling (Lansdowne/Leinster), Cillian Gallagher (Corinthians/Connacht) (capt), Paul Boyle (Lansdowne/Leinster), Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster).

Replacements: Adam Moloney (Shannon/Munster), Rory Mulvihill (UCD/Leinster), Matthew Burke (Corinthians/Connacht), Jack Regan (UCD/Leinster), Gavin Coombes (Young Munster/Munster), Jack Lyons (Young Munster/Munster), Conor Fitzgerald (Shannon/Munster), Tommy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster).

Referee: Adam Jones (Wales).

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Ryan Bailey

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