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Ireland U20s get JWC campaign back on track with superb win over Wales

Mike Ruddock’s side scored four tries in Pukekohe, with Ross Byrne excellent in the 10 shirt.

Out-half Ross Byrne and No. 8 Jack O'Donoghue led the Irish efforts superbly.
Out-half Ross Byrne and No. 8 Jack O'Donoghue led the Irish efforts superbly.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Wales 21

Ireland 35

MIKE RUDDOCK’S IRELAND U20s got their Junior World Championship campaign back on track with a superb 35-21 bonus point win against Wales at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe, New Zealand.

Led by the composed Ross Byrne and driven forward by their outstanding No.8 Jack O’Donoghue, Ireland showed composure, intelligent decision-making and consistent fight in contact to deservedly overcome their Welsh counterparts.

Despite scrum dominance for Wales, Ireland enjoyed heavy amounts of possession and were clinical with their use of the ball. The backline was always dangerous, while the back row of O’Donoghue, Frankie Taggart and Peader Timmins worked hard.

Following opening day defeat to France, this success puts Ruddock’s men back in contention in Pool B ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Fiji. Ireland could still top the group if they beat the Fijians and Wales overcome table toppers France on the same day.

Ireland bristled with attacking intent from the opening whistle, with out-half Byrne prompting his teammates onto the ball with crisp passing, as Wales’ line speed took some time to awaken.

Alex Wootten, making his first start of the competition, popped up off his left wing to spark Ireland’s first threatening break, before an intelligent diagonal kick by Byrne bounced up invitingly for Ciaran Gaffney.

The Galwegians wing made headway, then Ireland showed composure to recycle the ball and send Munster prop Rory Burke over the whitewash. Byrne converted from out on the right to send Ireland 7-0 ahead after just 5 minutes.

With Ruddock’s men having defended expertly against Wales’ maiden attacking thrusts, Byrne launched another well-judged tactical kick to the right-hand side of the Welsh 22, where Ashley Evans knocked-on.

A free-kick from the subsequent scrum saw O’Donoghue intelligently quick-tap and barge to within metres of the tryline. When Ireland shifted the ball left, Byrne calmly sent centre Garry Ringrose crashing over, before converting.

Wales’ response finally came just before the 20-minute mark as a clever arcing run by scrum-half Luc Jones found space close to the fringes of an attacking maul. Dragons’ wing Tyler Morgan was on hand to take a short pass and burst clear for the try.

Angus O’Brien converted that score to draw Wales back to 14-7, but Ireland were next on the scoreboard as Byrne slotted a penalty following a smart attacking dart and offload by Young Munster’s Dan Goggin.

A sustained period of intense Welsh pressure inside the Irish 22 coming into the interval saw prop Peter Dooley sin binned, with an inevitable-looking penalty try following as the Welsh determinedly and ruthlessly attacked the Irish scrum.

O’Brien converted to bring Wales back to 17-14 at half time.

A second yellow card for Ireland followed immediately after the interval, after Wootten dropped his knees into O’Brien on the ground, stretching Ireland’s defence majorly, and Wales powered ominously back into the 22.

Their scrum again got a chance to prove its dominance, with James Benjamin dotting down at the tail as the Welsh shunted Ireland over their own tryline, allowing O’Brien to convert comfortably for a 21-17 lead.

With Dooley having returned from the sin bin, Ireland went back on that attack, eventually resulting in Ringrose stretching over for his second try. The impressive Byrne converted from just to the right of the posts.

A gorgeous penalty by Byrne wide on the left touchline then sent Ireland six points clear at 27-21 in the 59th minute after a strong period of territory and possession deep in the Welsh half.

Jack Dixon was sin binned for a dangerous tackle on Gaffney in the 65th-minute on the Welsh 22, allowing Byrne another attempt at the posts. However, the Leinster out-half was wide for the first time to let Wales off the hook.

The UCD playmaker more than made up for that rare error in the 72nd minute though, slotting a penalty to send Ireland into a 30-21 advantage. A brilliant late try by fullback Cian Kelleher, after clean handling by Ireland in midfield, wrapped up a superb team performance and secured the bonus point.

Wales scorers:

Tries: Tyler Morgan, Penalty Try, James Benjamin

Conversions: Angus O’Brien [3]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Rory Burke, Garry Ringrose [2], Cian Kelleher

Conversions: Ross Byrne [3]

Penalties: Ross Byrne [2]

WALES: Ashley Evans (Ospreys); Tyler Morgan (Dragons), Steffan Hughes (capt, Scarlets), Jack Dixon (Dragons), Joshua Adams (Scarlets); Angus O’Brien (Dragons), Luc Jones (Dragons); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys); Joe Davies (Dragons), Rory Thornton (Ospreys); Olly Cracknell (RGC), James Benjamin (Dragons), Will Boyde (Carmarthen).

Replacements: Scott Otten (Ospreys), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Callum Lewis (Blues), Scott Andrews (Dragons), Scott Matthews (Dragons), Tom Williams (Blues), Ethan Davies (Dragons), Afon Bagshaw (RGC).

IRELAND: Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ciaran Gaffney (Galwegians/Connacht), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Dan Goggin (Young Munster /Munster), Alex Wootton (Garryowen/Munster), Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster); Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), Max Abbott (Cork Constitution/Munster), Rory Burke (Cork Constitution/Munster); Darragh Moloney (Cork Constitution/Munster), Ross Molony (UCD/Leinster); Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jack O’ Donoghue (ULBohemians/Munster) (capt.).

Replacements: Dylan Donnellan (UCD/Leinster), Denis Coulson (Lansdowne/Leinster), Oisin Heffernan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Josh Murphy (UCD/Leinster), Diarmaid Dee (Young Munster/Munster), Ryan Foley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Conor McKeon (Lansdowne/Leinster), Harrison Brewer (Terenure/Leinster).

Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina).

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Murray Kinsella

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