Ireland 'A' snatched a dramatic 30-27 victory over the England Saxons to finish third at the Barclays Churchill Cup in Edmonton, Canada on Saturday.
BARCLAYS CHURCHILL CUP: Saturday, June 17
ENGLAND SAXONS 27 IRELAND 'A' 30, Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton (Att: 7,983)
Scorers: England: Tries: Kai Horstmann, Ayoola Erinle, Sam Vesty, Ben Johnston; Cons: Dave Walder 2; Pen: Walder
Ireland: Tries: Jamie Heaslip, Matt McCullough, John Fogarty, Ronan McCormack; Cons: Paddy Wallace 2; Pens: Wallace 2
The Saxons had taken a last-minute lead through Saracens centre Ben Johnston but then lost David Barnes and Andy Beattie to the sin bin as Ireland 'A' piled on the pressure in search of a response. And against 13 men, the breakthrough came from Leinster prop Ronan McCormack, who was driven over the English line a full seven minutes into added time.
As referee Peter Allan awarded the score, replacement hooker David Paice was trading blows with Trevor Hogan and he became the third Saxons player to be yellow carded. The ill-tempered clash was played out in front of 7,983 spectators.
Barnes and Beattie were both sin-binned for collapsing dominant driving mauls from the Irish and that eventually proved decisive in a very physical encounter.
The Saxons took a 17-13 lead into the interval after the game had opened in the 10 minutes of first half injury-time caused by Connacht prop Ray Hogan suffering a bad leg injury.
Ireland 'A' should have moved into an early lead after a sharp break from Ulster out-half Paddy Wallace but his long pass was just too far ahead of unmarked winger Andrew Maxwell. England were on the receiving end at the breakdown too but it earned them an early lead after Irish captain Shane Jennings had been warned for stamping on Saxons' Kai Horstmann.
Ireland 'A' went close through Ulster lock Matt McCullough after powerful number eight Jamie Heaslip had charged 30 yards through Clive Stuart-Smith's tackle. McCullough edged out Heaslip afterwards for the Barclays man of the match award.
The Irish then lost Hogan after his right leg was caught awkwardly in a tackle but they moved ahead with two penalties from Wallace as England suffered under pressure at the breakdown. Ireland 'A' shot themselves in the foot as Ayoola Erinle charged down an attempted clearance from full-back Bryn Cunningham. The Saxons made hard work of the try but Horstmann dived over in the corner after bounce-passes from Erinle and then Delon Armitage. The Irish hit back immediately as John Hearty ran an excellent angle onto Wallace's pass and Heaslip barged over in the first minute of added time.
But there was still time for the English to regain the advantage and Erinle picked up Dave Walder's clever grubber kick and powered through Cunningham to score.
The men in white extended their lead to 22-13 after the interval when Sam Vesty used Erinle as the decoy to straighten past Hearty and Wallace to score. The Irish refused to concede defeat as the Saxons struggled with injuries. Seymour was replaced with a neck injury and English coach Jon Callard emptied his bench as the game went to uncontested scrums.
McCullough was driven over to reduce England's advantage and after David Barnes was sin-binned for collapsing a powerful driving maul, the Irish took a 23-22 lead through hooker John Fogarty.
The Saxons mixed up their options in injury-time, trying a cross-field kick for Horstmann and the chip forward for Armitage. Neither worked but a stolen lineout in the Irish 22 and a slice of luck after Vesty's grubber deflected off Mossie Lawlor, saw Johnston in for a fourth English try. But the Saxons' inability to defend the driving maul proved costly as McCormack sealed the win for Ireland 'A'.
TIME LINE: 9 minutes - England Saxons penalty: Dave Walder - 3-0; 25 mins - Ireland 'A' penalty: Paddy Wallace - 3-3; 32 mins - Ireland 'A' penalty: Paddy Wallace - 3-6; 38 mins - England Saxons try: Kai Horstmann - 8-6; conversion: Dave Walder - 10-6; 40+1 mins - Ireland 'A' try: Jamie Heaslip - 10-11; conversion: Paddy Wallace - 10-13; 40+3 mins - England Saxons try: Ayoola Erinle - 15-13; conversion: Dave Walder - 17-13; Half-time - England Saxons 17 Ireland 'A' 13; 48 mins - England Saxons try: Sam Vesty - 22-13; conversion: missed by Dave Walder - 22-13; 51 mins - Ireland 'A' try: Matt McCullough - 22-18; conversion missed by Paddy Wallace - 22-18; 75 mins - England Saxons yellow card: David Barnes; 75 mins - Ireland 'A' try: John Fogarty - 22-23; 80+1 mins - England Saxons try: Ben Johnston - 27-23; conversion: missed by Dave Walder - 27-23; 80+5 mins - England Saxons yellow card: Andy Beattie; 80+7 mins - Ireland 'A' try: Ronan McCormack - 27-28; conversion: Paddy Wallace - 27-30; 80+7 mins - England yellow card: David Paice; Full-time - England Saxons 27 Ireland 'A' 30
ENGLAND SAXONS: Delon Armitage; Richard Haughton, Ben Johnston, Sam Vesty, Ayoola Erinle; Dave Walder, Clive Stuart-Smith (capt); David Barnes, James Buckland, Stuart Turner, James Hudson, Nick Kennedy, Kieran Roche, David Seymour, Kai Horstmann.
Replacements used: Micky Ward for Turner, David Paice for Buckland (both 51), Luke Narraway for Roche (52-66), Ben Woods for Seymour (60), Andy Beattie for Hudson (66), Luke Narraway for Horstmann (80+5). Not used: Michael Horak, Richard Wigglesworth.
IRELAND 'A': Bryn Cunningham; Andrew Maxwell, John Hearty, Mossie Lawlor, Conor McPhillips; Paddy Wallace, Tomas O'Leary; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Tom Court, Trevor Hogan, Matt McCullough, Shane Jennings (capt), Neil McMillan, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Chris Keane for O'Leary, Ronan McCormack for Hogan (both 22 mins), Simon Keogh for Maxwell (70), John Muldoon for McMillan (71), Damien Browne for Court (73), Brian Blaney for Fogarty (80). Not used: Eoghan Hickey.
Sin Bin: Barnes (England) (75 mins), Beattie (England) (80+5), Paice (England) (80+7)
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)