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Pablo Gasparini/INPHO Ryan Baird makes a burst around Fletcher Newell.
# U20 World Cup
Early black-out proves costly as Ireland U20 fall to New Zealand
Ryan Baird’s try was the stand-out moment as Ireland had to battle from 26 down against New Zealand.

Ireland 17

New Zealand 40

ALL GOOD THINGS must come to an end, and this momentous Ireland U20 year came grinding to a halt with their most clear-cut defeat of 2019.

As with their previous two defeats in this tournament, there was nothing black and white about this loss, but the die was cast in a taxing first 20 minutes when New Zealand racked up 26 unanswered points.

Noel McNamara’s men, who finish eighth in the competition with this result, have forged their reputation on refusing to be counted out. So, sure enough, they made commendable inroads into the deficit with tries from Josh Wycherley, Dylan Tierney-Martin and a brilliant breakaway run from Ryan Baird.

The Grand Slam champions, taking full advantage of a sin-bin for centre Billy Proctor, cut the 26-point deficit to just nine. However, 17-26 was as good as it got and their challenge ultimately faded with the introduction of another wave of powerful black-shirted replacements.

New Zealand, bristling at the prospect of their worst-ever finish in this tournament, were brimming with intent from the off and rode out early robust tackles to power into a commanding lead. Etene Nanai-Seturo reacted best to a bounce mis-judged by Max O’Reilly and crossed the whitewash for a sign of things to come.

Jake Flannery Pablo Gasparini / INPHO Jake Flannery in attack. Pablo Gasparini / INPHO / INPHO

The right wing would grab a second score on 13 minutes thanks to a lovely tip-on from Procter. Ireland’s low point arrived in the minutes before as loosehead Oliver Norris spied a ball out at the back of a slow green ruck and raced in for try number two from 20 metres.

And the quartet of early tries was complete, the match all-but settled, when New Zealand worked their way from a five-metre line-out and scored through the powerful leg drive of wing Leicester Fainga’anuku.

The rug was well and truly pulled from under Ireland and they looked seriously rattled at times during the first 40, with pressure ensuring errors were rarely far away.

However, with 30 minutes on the clock – perhaps with lactic acid finally making way for adrenaline – they began to find a rhythm, string phases together and New Zealand responded with a string of penalty concessions.

After a long onslaught and a warning for the spoiling Kiwi pack, Ireland finally got on the board thanks to Wycherley’s 38th-minute shove over the line.

Ireland’s second-best attack of the day followed immediately, with Rob Russell and Liam Turner linking on a raid down the left wing and across halfway. Cormac Foley took the move into the final third, but he could not connect his pass with Craig Casey. 

Craig Casey Pablo Gasparini / INPHO Casey roars his team on. Pablo Gasparini / INPHO / INPHO

Still, Proctor was issued his yellow card in the phases that followed and after the half-time score read 5-26, McNamara’s men re-emerged with a tempo designed to take maximum value from their man advantage.

Baird was heavily involved in the build-up to Dylan Tierney-Martin’s 42nd-minute try and the powerful forward underlined his superb performances with a show-stopping score after he powered clear up the left, linked with Casey who jinked and eked out the extra yards before offloading to Baird on the try-line.

What seemed impossible after 20 minutes was now a live prospect with the scoreboard reading 17-26.

Ireland maintained the ambition in their attacking play, stretching New Zealand with wide attacks. But there was to be no miracle. The Kiwi ship steadied once they were restored to 15 and as their big men rolled from the bench, more untimely errors were coughed up by Ireland.

Tamaiti Williams forced his way over on 66 minutes to end the Kiwi wait for a fifth try and the pack delivered the final blow in this seventh and eighth-place play-off, mauling to give hooker Shilo Klein the chance to ground before Rivez Reihana’a terrific right boot ratcheted the scoreboard up to 17-40.

And so the adventure in Argentina ends, five matches squeezed into 18 days that made for a physically punishing rollercoaster. But we’ll be seeing a lot more of the men on show here.



Tries: J Wycherley, D Tierney-Martin, R Baird

Conversions: J Flannery (1/3)

New Zealand

Tries: E Nanai-Seturo (2), O Norris, L Fainga’anuku, T Williams, S Klein

Conversions: R Reihana (5/6)

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