Ryan Byrne/INPHO On song: Harry Byrne.
# Close Call
Relief as Ireland young guns edge brave Japan to avoid U20 World Cup relegation
Just about.

Ireland 39

Japan 33

By John Fallon at Stade de la Mediterranee in Beziers

IRELAND AVOIDED THE humiliation of relegation but only after seeing off a brave challenge from Japan in the concluding game of the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Japan outscored Ireland by five tries to four but the boot of Harry Byrne was enough for Ireland to avoid making the drop to the World Trophy next season.

Ireland played against the strong breeze in the opening half and turned around at the interval leading by 22-12 after starting and finishing the half well.

Ireland, with captain Caelan Doris leading the way, got on top early on and hit the front after five minutes when scrum-half Jonny Stewart crossed.

Harry Byrne added the extras and a good lineout delivered a second try after eleven minutes when Doris fed his hooker Dan Sheehan to bulldoze over in the left corner.

But the handling errors which were rampant in their four defeats prior to this manifested themselves again in a game played in front of a couple of hundred supporters on the back pitch at Stade de la Meditterranee in Beziers.

And Japan, so unlucky to lose to a late Georgia try on Tuesday, hit back and winger Halatoa Vailea got over for a converted try after 15 minutes.

They tied the game eight minutes later when a good lineout drive was eventually finished by tighthead Rento Tsukayama to leave it 12-12.

However, Ireland finished the half strongly. Byrne kicked a penalty after a superb break by Doris and then a 20-phase move six minutes from the interval was finished by Peter Sylvester to lead by 22-12 at the break.

Paul O'Connell looks on as the forwards warm up before the game Iconsport / INPHO Paul O'Connell with the players. Iconsport / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland pushed on after the restart with three penalties in the opening ten minutes of the second-half from Byrne to increase their lead to 31-12.

Japan hit back and their huge Tongan-born winger Siosaia Fifita got in for a converted try to cut the gap to 31-19 after 56 minutes.

And a nervous final quarter looked on the cards when Fifita got in for his second try in three minutes after poor Irish tackling to leave it 31-26.

Byrne eased the Irish nerves with another penalty after good work by the Irish pack.

But once more Japan hit back and Vailea got in for his second try six minutes from time, with Yuto Mori’s fourth conversion cutting the gap to 34-33.

However, Ireland responded superbly and Tommy O’Brien sealed the win with an excellent try in the left corner although Byrne’s missed conversion ensued a nervous finale to Ireland’s championship.



Tries: Jonny Stewart, Dan Sheehan, Peter Sylvester, Tommy O’Brien

Conversions: Harry Byrne (3)

Penalties: Byrne (5)


Tries: Siosia Fifita (2), Halatoa Vailea (2), Rento Tsukayama

Conversions: Yuot Mori (4)


15. Michael Lowry (Banbridge/Ulster)
14. James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster)
13. Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
12. Peter Sylvester (UCC/Munster)
11. Tommy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
10. Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
9. Jonny Stewart (Queen’s University/Ulster)

1. Jordan Duggan (Naas/Leinster)
2. Dan Sheehan (Dublin University/Leinster)
3. Jack Aungier (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
4. Cormac Daly (Clontarf/Leinster)
5. Jack Dunne (Dublin University/Leinster)
6. Jack Daly (Garryowen/Munster)
7. Matthew Agnew (Ballymena/Ulster)
8. Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (captain)


20. Joe Dunleavy (Malone/Ulster) for Agnew (half-time)
16. Dylan Tierney (Corinthians/Connacht) for Sheehan (66)
19. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) for Daly (66)
21. Hugh O’Sullivan (Clontarf/Leinster) for Stewart (70)
18. Joe Byrne (Dublin University/Leinster) for Aungier (74)


15. Kyohei Yamasawa
14. Halatoa Vailea
13. Sioeli Vakalahi
12. Yuto Mori
11. Siosaia Fifita
10. Hiroto Mamada
9. Atora Hondo

1. Yusuke Yamada
2. Miyu Arai
3. Rento Tsukayama
4. Kanji Shimokawa
5. Ryuga Hashimoto
6. Kai Yamamoto
7. Hisanobu Okayama
8. Asipeli Moala


21. Shinobu Fujiwar for Hondo (50)
17. Gakuto Ishida for Yamada (53)
18. Shohei Oyama for Tsukayama (53)
19. Kaito Aibe for Yamamoto (70)

Referee: Karl Dickson (England).

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