18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Friday night saw the Ireland Under-21s run in five tries without reply to beat Italy 34-9 in their first U-21 6 Nations outing at Dubarry Park.
UNDER-21 6 NATIONS: Friday, February 3
IRELAND U-21 34 ITALY U-21 9, Dubarry Park (Att: 3,000)
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Carr, Marshall, Williams, Cave, Philpott; Cons: Sexton 2, Doyle; Pen: Sexton
Italy: Pens: Brussolo 3
A 69th-minute try from captain Stuart Philpott rounded out a comfortable 34-9 win for Mark McDermott's Irish side in the midlands.
The Belfast Harlequins hooker, who has emerged as a forceful leader, barged over for Ireland's fifth and final try, taking an inside pass from 6ft 10in lock Devin Toner. Philpott, who was tireless in both defence and attack, was a standout performer but UCC flanker Ross Noonan took the honours as ESB International man of the match.
Noonan was everywhere, and the Corkman will need to be on top form again next Friday when Ireland travel to Strasbourg to face France, who ran out easy 37-0 winners against Scotland in their opener at the Falkirk Stadium.
In Athlone, tries from Fionn Carr, Paul Marshall and Matthew Williams helped the Irish end the first half 20-6 in front. The Italians, whose only points came from the boot of fly half Andrea Brussolo, were down to 13 men either side of the break as lock and captain Alberto Saccardo and winger Angelo Russo both earned yellow cards for ruck offences, but although competitive to the finish, scoring a try proved beyond the visitors.
St. Mary's fly half Jonathan Sexton got the ball rolling for the Irish with a well-taken ninth-minute penalty. Full-back Carr then broke up a scrappy spell of play with a brilliant try on 16 minutes.
Sexton linked with Conan Doyle before Belfast Harlequins centre Darren Cave, who is only 18, took a superb line, changing the thrust of the right wing attack, to put Blackrock's Carr over from 25 metres out. Sexton missed the conversion and Brussolo dinked over the first of his three penalties soon after.
Try number two arrived for Ireland on 25 minutes when Philpott broke down the blindside for Williams to send elusive scrum half Marshall scampering in behind the posts.
McDermott's side lost Sexton to the sin bin, six minutes later, for hands in the ruck, and Italy briefly threatened with Brussolo kicking the resultant penalty for 15-6. But Marshall then broke loose off a ruck, 30 metres out, to send winger Williams over on the left flank.
Just before half-time, Italy were further curtailed when Saccardo and Russo were sent to the sin bin for ruck misdemeanours. The visitors fought on bravely though and Brussolo landed a third penalty on 52 minutes, when they were restored to their full compliment.
Two minutes later, Ireland, who had looked flat since the second half's start, sparked into life. Noonan, as he had been doing all night, stole possession, Galwegians flyer Peter Durcan sent through a well-timed chip and Cave raced onto it to beat Michele Sepe to the touchdown.
It was a deserved try for Cave, who looked the part at outside centre. Durcan thought he had got in for Ireland's fifth try soon after, but he was called back for a forward pass by Sexton. Philpott's effort saw Italian heads drop and the Irish were home and dry.
TIME LINE: 9 minutes - Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton - 3-0; 16 mins - Ireland try: Fionn Carr - 8-0; conversion: missed by Jonathan Sexton - 8-0; 22 mins - Italy penalty: Andrea Brussolo - 8-3; 25 mins - Ireland try: Paul Marshall - 13-3; conversion: Jonathan Sexton -15-3; 31 mins - Ireland yellow card: Jonathan Sexton (ruck offence); Italy penalty - Andrea Brussolo - 15-6; 35 mins - Ireland try: Matthew Williams - 20-6; conversion: missed by Conan Doyle - 20-6; 37 mins - Italy yellow card: Alberto Saccardo (ruck offence); 40+1 mins - Italy yellow card: Angelo Russo (ruck offence); Half-time - Ireland 20 Italy 6; 52 mins - Italy penalty: Andrea Brussolo - 20-9; 54 mins - Ireland try: Darren Cave - 25-9; conversion: Jonathan Sexton - 27-9; 69 mins - Ireland try: Stuart Philpott - 32-9; conversion: Conan Doyle - 34-9; Full-time - Ireland 34 Italy 9
Ireland U-21: Fionn Carr (Blackrock College); Matthew Williams (Bristol Shoguns/Hartpury College), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins), Conan Doyle (Garryowen), Peter Durcan (Galwegians); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College), Paul Marshall (Ballynahinch); Darragh Hurley (UCC), Stuart Philpott (Belfast Harlequins) (capt), Paul Doran-Jones (Dublin University), Devin Toner (Lansdowne), Daniel Tuohy (UCC), Ross Noonan (UCC), Ejike Uzoigwe (Hartpury College), Billy Holland (UCC).
Replacements used: David McGowan (Buccaneers) for Tuohy, Sean O'Brien (UCD) for Uzoigwe, Fergus McFadden (UCD) for Sexton (all 65 mins), Tom Gleeson (Cork Constitution) for Williams, Callum Black (Worcester/Hartpury College) for Doran-Jones (both 67), Duncan Williams (UCC) for Marshall (71), Sean Cronin (Shannon) for Philpott (75).
Italy U-21: Riccardo Robuschi; Angelo Russo, Marco Neethling, Enrico Patrizio, Michele Sepe; Andrea Brussolo, Fabio Semenzato; Davide Giazzon, Valerio Vicere, Matteo Muccignat, Mantvydas Tveraga, Alberto Saccardo (capt), Paul Derbyshire, Nicola Cattina, Marco Pelizzari.
Replacements used: Franco Rendace for Saccardo (51 mins), Enrico Ceccato for Robushi, Lorenzo Giovanchelli for Vicere, Andrea Michelini for Muccignat (all 58), Andrea Barbieri for Giazzon (73). Not used: Andrea Ceccato, Emanuel Billot.
Referee: Bruce Robertson (England)
FRIDAY'S OTHER U-21 6 NATIONS RESULTS: Scotland U-21 0 France U-21 37, Falkirk Stadium; England U-21 26 Wales U-21 18, Sixways, Worcester
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