23/03/02.Ireland booked a place in the IRB World Cup in South Africa later this year with a facile victory over Italy in the first ever U-21 international played at the Sportsground yesterday.
Ireland ran in nine tries, to win 60-14, with Connacht players winger Martin McPhail and centre Gavin Duffy playing a big part in the success. Hero of the day for Ciaran Fitzgerald’s side was UCD scrum-half Brian O’Riordan who crowned a superb personal display by scoring a hat-trick of tries against the outclassed visitors.
The Irish were on top throughout and would surely have struck the century if they had not taken their foot of the gas for a long period in the opening half when they allowed the Italians get into the match. The Irish, after losing their opening games to Wales and England before recovering to pip Scotland, encountered few difficulties against Italy, who showed little penetration going forward. Ireland eased their way to a 34-7 interval advantage after wing forward Neil McMillan from Ballymena crossed the visitor’s line after less than 100 seconds with fly-half Eoghan Hickey from UCD landing the first of his six converts.
The other wing-forward, UCC’s Denis Leamy, had Ireland’s second try after nine minutes before Italy, who had treated the crowd to a rousing rendition of their National Anthem unaccompanied by any band before the game, struck for a try from hooker Michele Rizzo after twelve minutes. Ireland failed to make quality possession count for a long period after that (fly-half Hickey resorting to kicking a penalty seven minutes from the break) before they hit for three tries in a five minute spell before the interval.
Man of the match O’Riordan, a real prospect, got two of these thanks to razor sharp reflexes, while in between lock Matt McCullough bulldozed over for a try as the Italians were sent packing. Centre Diego Sacca lifted the siege five minutes after the break for Italy with fly-half Vincenzo Zullo again adding the points, but from there to the end it was Ireland firmly in control. The superior Irish pack pushed over again after 45 minutes, with Ballymena’s Bryan Young getting the touchdown before his unrelated clubmate, full-back Scott Young, got in after a good passing movement from right to left.
O’Riordan completed his hat-trick when he sniped through a gap from his own ten metre line down the left-wing before cutting in to score under the posts. That pushed Ireland past the 50-point mark, and St Mary’s College centre Barry Lynn was on the field just seconds when he scored Ireland’s ninth try in the final minute to complete the rout.
SCORERS: Ireland: B. O’Riordan, three tries; E. Hickey, six cons, one pen; S. Young, try; B. Young, try; M. McCullough, try; D. Leamy, try; N. McMillan, try; B. Lynn, try.
Italy: M. Rizzo, try; D. Sacca, try; V. Zullo, two cons.
Ireland: S. Young (Ballymena); M. McPhail (UL/Bohemians), G. Duffy (Galwegians), C. O’Sullivan (UCC), C. McPhilips (St Mary’s College); E. Hickey (UCD), B. O’Riordan (UCD); J. Lyne (Lansdowne), K. Corrigan (UCD), B. Young (Ballymena); S. Keogh (UCC), M. McCullough (Ballymena); D. Leamy (UCC), R. Wilson (Dublin University), N. McMillan (Ballymena).
Replacements: S. Philips (Saracens) for B. Young, 70 mins; R. Best (Newcastle) for Corrigan, 72 mins; F. Murphy (UCC) for O’Riordan, 72 mins; J. Norton (St Mary’s College) for McPhilips, 76 mins; M. Carroll (Blackrock College) for Keogh, 76 mins; C. Hartigan (Garryowen) for McMillan, 79 mins; B. Lynn (St Mary’s College) for O’Sullivan, 79 mins.
Italy: A. Masi (L’Aquila); C. Gaudillo (Sannio), D. Sacca (Livorno), M. Barbini (Petrarca), G. Canale (Bentton); V. Zullo (Sannio), P. Travagli (Viadana); C. Russo (Sannio), M. Rizzo (Petrarca), M. Pietrosanti (Roma); A.Bresolin (Mogliano), A. Pegoretti (Roma); A. Mannato (Sannio), A.Frassinella (Benetton), L. Ferraro (Cus Firenze).
Replacements: G. Intoppa (Calvisano) for Rizzo, inj. 54 mins; N. Bezzati (Petrarca) for Pegoretti, 59 mins; S. Picone (Silea) for Travagli, 59 mins; S. Accorsi (Mirano) for Canale, 66 mins; F. Tripodi (L’Aquila) for Frassinella, 79 mins.
Referee: Phil Fear (Wales).