Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO Ireland U20s celebrate.
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Ireland U20s withstand second-half surge to keep back-to-back Grand Slam ambitions alive
Richie Murphy’s side ran out 44-27 victors over Italy at the Stadio Comunale Di Monigo.

Italy 27

Ireland 44

Daire Walsh reports

THE IRELAND U20s withstood a powerful second-half surge from Italy at Stadio Comunale Di Monigo tonight to keep their quest for back-to-back Grand Slam titles very much alive.

A full 19 points in front at the break, Ireland were pegged back on the resumption with their lead standing at 37-27 heading into the closing 10 minutes of a pulsating Six Nations affair. Yet Richie Murphy’s youngsters ultimately held firm and a late try courtesy of replacement Rory Telfer ensured they have now recorded three consecutive wins in this year’s tournament.

Coming into the contest on the back of victories against Wales and France, defending champions Ireland took less than four minutes to edge in front at the Treviso venue. After Sam Prendergast opted for touch off an attacking penalty, No 8 Brian Gleeson dotted down off the subsequent set-piece move.

Kildare native Prendergast comfortably added the bonuses to give the visitors a seven-point cushion, but Italy came roaring into the contest when hooker Giovanni Quattrini touched down from a line-out maul of their own in the 13th-minute.

Although Giovanni Sante’s miscued bonus strike kept Ireland in the ascendancy, they were eager to reinforce their authority. It was Prendergast’s half-back partner Fintan Gunne who managed to do just that moments after Quattrini had gotten his name on the scoresheet.

The former St Michael’s College student kept his cool to run through unopposed for a converted try, with the majority of the French rearguard seemingly thinking the play had stopped.

Prendergast and Sante proceeded to trade penalties during the second-quarter, in advance of the former providing the foundations for Ireland’s third try with a superb 50/22 kick to touch.

This helped Ireland to ramp up the pressure on the Italian defence and blindside flanker James McNabney eventually drove over the line in fine style. Prendergast once again supplied the extras to this score and also split the uprights off a stoppage-time place-kick to give the defending champions a 27-8 interval cushion.

This had them in pole position for another massive victory in their bid for Championship supremacy, but the resolute Italians kept themselves in contention over the course of a blistering third-quarter of action. Both teams had been using their line-outs to good effect and Jacopo Botturi was the latest beneficiary of an intricate attacking maul seven minutes after the resumption.

The bustling back-row broke free to touch down for his side’s second try of the evening and an outstanding Sante conversion brought the Irish’s buffer down to 12 points. Order appeared to have been restored when outside centre Hugh Cooney grabbed a try at the end of a multi-phase move – Prendergast was once again on hand to convert – but the Italians came back to life in clinical fashion on 59 minutes.

Following his early introduction for winger Mathias Leon Douglas, Filippo Bozzoni was making a strong impression in Italy’s back line. He broke into the Irish half with a lung-bursting run, before passing out wide for full-back Francois Carlo Mey to dive over on the left-flank.

Although there was still a sizeable gap between the sides, Prendergast opted for the posts with 14 minutes left on the clock as he sought to create further daylight on the scoreboard. This proved to be a smart decision by the Leinster Academy prospect as his three-pointer was immediately followed by another maul try from Italy’s replacement hooker Nicholas Gasperini.

This secured a try bonus for the hosts, but Ireland made sure this was their sole consolation from the game in the end. Following a patient attack inside the Italian ’22’, Teller was on hand to cross over in the left-corner and an eighth successful kick off the tee from Prendergast sealed a 17-point triumph for Ireland.

Italy Scorers

Tries: Giovanni Quattrini, Jacopo Botturi, Francois Carlo Mey, Nicholas Gasperini

Conversions: Giovanni Sante [2 from 3], Simone Brisighella [0 from 1]

Penalties: Giovanni Sante [1 from 1]

Ireland Scorers

Tries: Brian Gleeson, Fintan Gunne, James McNabney, Hugh Cooney, Rory Telfer

Conversions: Sam Prendergast [5 from 5]

Penalties: Sam Prendergast [3 from 3]

ITALY: Francois Carlo Mey; Alessandro Gesi, Dewi Passarella, Nicola Bozzo, Mathias Leon Douglas (Filippo Bozzoni ’27); Giovanni Sante (Simone Brisighella ’66), Sebastiano Battara (Valerio Siciliano ’72); Destiny Ugiagbe Aminu (Samuele Taddei ’72), Giovanni Quattrini (Nicholas Gaspreini ’66), Marcos Francesco Gallorini (Alex Valentino Artuso ’79); Alex Mattioli, Pietro Turrisi (Enrico Pontarini ’57); Carlos Berlese Lizardo (Filippo Lavorenti ’50), David Odiase, Jacopo Botturi.

IRELAND: Henry McErlean; James Nicholson, Hugh Cooney (Harry West ’76), John Devine (Rory Telfer ’66), Hugh Gavin; Sam Prendergast, Fintan Gunne (Oscar Cawley ’76); George Hadden (George Morris ’61), Gus McCarthy (Danny Sheahan ’80), Paddy McCarthy (Fiachna Barrett ’71); Diarmuid Mangan, Conor O’Tighearnaigh; James McNabney, Ruadhán Quinn (Evan O’Connell ’57), Brian Gleeson (Jacob Sheahan ’69).

Referee: Hollie Davidson (SRU)

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