Ireland U20s come up just short in wild Donnybrook encounter with Wales

There were 11 tries in a frenetic game in Dublin.

Ireland 38

Wales 41

Murray Kinsella reports from Donnybrook

A WILD GAME in Dublin that neither side ever truly gained control of, but Ireland’s error count and a poor defensive display saw them come up just short against a clinical Welsh side.

Kemsley Mathias after James Botham scores a try Wales celebrate a second-half try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There was more attacking brilliance from captain Tommy O’Brien, man of the match Jack O’Sullivan and their side as they scored five tries, but Ireland’s failure to flow the Welsh tide in defence was costly.

Noel McNamara’s side conceded six tries to the Welsh – taking their total in three games to 16 – and some of those scores will have been far too soft for their liking.

There was a madcap finish as O’Brien’s late try brought Ireland back to within three points in a second half that entertainingly swung between the teams in terms of momentum, McNamara’s men finding response after response to Welsh scores.

But, utimately, it’s a second defeat in three games for this Irish team, albeit with two bonus points from this clash.

There were real positives in the performances of the likes of double try-scorer O’Sullivan, impressive inside centre Angus Curtis and the experienced Jonny Stewart, but Ireland will be rueing their errors, particularly in a first-half that left them trailing 19-10.

They will look to shore up their defence and restarts before the final two Six Nations clashes with Scotland and England, aware that they shot themselves in the foot far too often here.

James Hume makes a break Ulster centre James Hume makes a break for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland made a poor start as debutant James Hume was beaten in defence and then captain O’Brien knocked-on, with Wales scoring directly from the subsequent scrum.

Dragons number eight Taine Basham, who has already played Pro14 rugby, picked from the base and beat tackle attempts from Jonny Stewart and Sean Masterson before a sumptuous offload to scrum-half Harri Morgan, who freed Thomas Rogers to finish.

A break from Ulster’s Curtis lifted Ireland but then James McCarthy was pinged for not releasing the ball after the tackle and Wales rumbled their maul to within metres of the Irish tryline, from where powerful lock Max Williams crashed over.

Fullback Cai Evans – son of former Wales and Lions wing Ieuan – converted before Ireland out-half Harry Byrne got his side onto the scoreboard with a penalty.

But Ireland’s errors continued and when Curtis’ pass went to deck, the Welsh broke from their own half and into the Ireland 22, from where their narrow carrying tactics led to flanker James Botham – grandson of cricketing legend Ian Botham – barreling over for a try converted by Evans.

The TMO ruled out a possible reply try from Stewart soon after, as Ireland briefly settled into the game.

Angus Curtis scores a try Angus Curtis scores for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jack Aungier and Jordan Duggan fired at scrum time to win a momentum-lifting scrum penalty and Ireland finished the half strongly, as hooker Ronan Kelleher broke through from a scrappy lineout and then Curtis finished wonderfully, beating two tackles and stretching out to dot down to the left of the posts.

Byrne’s conversion left Ireland trailing 19-10 at the break, but their start to the second half was dire.

Directly from receiving Byrne’s restart, Wales wing Joe Goodchild broke the Irish defence and linked with Morgan, who passed inside to Leicester Tigers blindside Tommy Reffell, whose pace took him under the posts for a converted try.

Ireland recovered quickly, with number eight O’Sullivan producing an excellent solo try as he fended a Welsh tackle and strode under the posts for Byrne to convert.

Just four minutes later, Ireland conceded a fifth try, as Kelleher’s lineout throw inside the Ireland 22 flew over and beyond Charlie Ryan, where Botham pounced and beat two weak tackle efforts on his way to the tryline.

The frenetic nature of the contest continued as impressive Munster man O’Sullivan grabbed his second try, powering over under the posts for a TMO-confirmed score that Byrne converted.

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Jack Dunne wins a line out Ireland win a lineout. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

But directly from the restart, Wales regained possession and outside centre Callum Carson was able to pick out Ireland tighthead Aungier for a one-on-one he won to cross for the sixth Welsh try, again converted by Evans.

Scrum-half Stewart conjured the next Irish reply when he darted over on a clever arcing line from the base of a ruck, with Byrne’s 100% record continuing off the tee to leave Ireland trailing 38-31.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Wales took the opportunity afforded by a scrum penalty to open their lead to ten points, Evans hitting the three points off the tee.

Replacement out-half Conor Dean missed touch with a penalty in the 72nd minute to deny Ireland a good attacking platform, but they once again produced a brilliant try to give themselves hope.

Sub prop Tom O’Toole offloaded to Ryan, who found right wing O’Brien surging up on his shoulder to take a pass and streak clear, Stewart drop-kicking the 75th-minute conversion that left Ireland within three point at 41-38.

Unfortunately for the Irishmen, it only proved to be a consolation score as they came away with just two losing bonus points.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Angus Curtis, Jack O’Sullivan [2], Jonny Stewart

Conversions: Harry Byrne [4 from 4]

Penalties: Harry Byrne [1 from 1]

Wales scorers:

Tries: Thomas Rogers, Max Williams, James Botham [2], Tommy Reffell, Callum Carson

Conversions: Cai Evans [4 from 6]

IRELAND: Michael Silvester; Tommy O’Brien (captain), James Hume (Hugh O’Sullivan ’73), Angus Curtis, James McCarthy (Angus Kernohan ’67); Harry Byrne (Conor Dean ’71), Jonny Stewart; Jordan Duggan (James French ’71), Ronan Kelleher (Diarmuid Barron ’76), Jack Aungier (Tom O’Toole ’71); Cormac Daly (Charlie Ryan ’30), Jack Dunne; Sean Masterson (Ronan Foley ’72), Matthew Agnew, Jack O’Sullivan.

WALES: Cai Evans; Joe Goodchild (Dafydd Smith ’65), Callum Carson, Max Llewellyn, Thomas Rogers (Ben Thomas ’67); Ben Jones, Harri Morgan (Dan Babos ’62); Josh Reynolds (Rhys Carre ’48), Iestyn Harris (Dewi Lake ’62), Rhys Henry (Kemsley Mathias ’48); Owen Lloyd (Jack Pope ’76), Max Williams; Tommy Reffell, James Botham (Morgan Morris ’62), Taine Basham.

Referee: Sam Grove White [SRU].


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Murray Kinsella

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