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Four-Try Saxons Too Strong For Irish

Four-Try Saxons Too Strong For Irish

A lack of preparation time really hit home for the Ireland ‘A’ team at Ravenhill on Friday night, as the England Saxons ran four tries past the men in green for a 32-5 victory.

‘A’ INTERNATIONAL: Friday, February 9


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Scorers: Ireland: Try: Rob Kearney
England: Tries: Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, David Strettle, Richard Wigglesworth; Cons: Shane Geraghty 3; Pen: Geraghty; Drop: Mike Catt

Having only come together on Wednesday, Michael Bradley’s charges were up against it and faded badly in the second half during which the Saxons scored three tries.

The visitors, coached by Jim Mallinder, had the benefit of a 34-5 win over Italy ‘A’ last week and they came to the fore after taking an 8-5 lead into the break in Belfast.

Ireland got off to a reasonable start with debutant Ian Humphreys being presented with the first scoring opportunity, but his eighth-minute penalty attempt, from a fair distance, smacked back off the right post.

Two minutes later, a shuddering hit by Ulster’s Stephen Ferris on Chris Jones had the crowd in raptures as Ireland ‘A’ set about their task.

There was a degree of niggle in the game, perhaps harking back to Ireland’s dramatic injury-time win at last summer’s Churchill Cup, but as things settled, the Saxons gradually took control, cutting the home side’s supply of ball and using their big, bulky ball carriers to put them on the front foot.

Rugby league convert Chev Walker was the go-to man in midfield, and with busy scrum half Peter Richards calling the shots, the English soon got within sight of the try line.

Ireland ‘A’ were pinged for not rolling away in the 16th-minute and London Irish out-half Shane Geraghty made no mistake with the penalty, from right in front of the posts.

Ferris and his Ulster team-mate Roger Wilson showed well in the opening half, with Conor O’Loughlin, Humphreys and Barry Murphy showing some sparks behind the Irish scrum.

O’Loughlin’s counterpart Richards was right at the centre of England’s first try on 32 minutes. Hooker Dylan Hartley powered off the back of a maul, linking with the England number 9 and then taking a return pass, and shrugging off Rob Kearney’s tackle, to make the right corner.

Geraghty missed with the extras and Ireland ‘A’ struck what could have been a big psychological blow when, just two minutes later, they crossed for a try. A quickly-taken penalty by O’Loughlin saw the Saxons defence caught napping and the Connacht man offloaded for Kearney to spin past Walker’s challenge and touch down to the left of the posts.

Humphreys missed the difficult conversion, but the Irish were right back in the game at 8-5 down.

However, Bradley’s men just could not get any momentum together in the second period. In truth, the Saxon’s half-time lead should have been more and they began to dominate territorially, it seemed inevitable that tries would come.

Mike Catt, the visitors’ captain, wobbled a drop goal through the uprights on 56 minutes to give his side an 11-5 buffer and they never looked back.

Despite Geraghty failing to punish Ireland ‘A’ for some poor penalty concessions – the former Ireland Youth international missed three kicks on the night – it turned out those misses did not really matter as the Saxons bagged three converted tries over the closing quarter of an hour.

Ireland ‘A’, watched by senior coaches Eddie O’Sullivan and Niall O’Donovan, looked a tired side as a lovely inside pass from Catt saw the home defence cut apart and replacement flanker James Haskell hared onto that pass to gallop over unchallenged.

Geraghty converted and added the extras to a opportunistic 71st-minute try from David Strettle, who scooted past three defenders to score, and a final seven-pointer followed when Richard Wigglesworth, the replacement scrum half, embarrassed a number of Irish players, dancing through a flurry of tired tackles to go over under the posts.

Ireland ‘A’ can only hope to gain revenge in May’s Churchill Cup which is being hosted by England this year.

TIME LINE: 8 minutes – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: missed by Ian Humphreys – 0-0; 16 mins – England Saxons penalty: Shane Geraghty – 0-3; 32 mins – England Saxons try: Dylan Hartley – 0-8; conversion: missed by Shane Geraghty – 0-8; 34 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Rob Kearney – 5-8; conversion: missed by Ian Humphreys – 5-8; Half-time – Ireland ‘A’ 5 England Saxons 8; 56 mins – England Saxons drop goal: Mike Catt – 5-11; 58 mins – England Saxons penalty: missed by Shane Geraghty – 5-11; 64 mins – England Saxons penalty: missed by Shane Geraghty – 5-11; 65 mins – England Saxons try: James Haskell – 5-16; conversion: Shane Geraghty – 5-18; 71 mins – England Saxons try: David Strettle – 5-23; conversion: Shane Geraghty – 5-25; 76 mins – England Saxons try: Richard Wigglesworth – 5-30; conversion: Shane Geraghty – 5-32; Full-time – Ireland ‘A’ 5 England Saxons 32

IRELAND ‘A’: Danny Riordan (Galwegians/Connacht); Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Kieran Lewis (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Ian Humphreys (Leicester Tigers), Conor O’Loughlin (Buccaneers/Connacht); Ronnie McCormack (UCD/Leinster), Frankie Sheahan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster), Trevor Hogan (Shannon/Leinster), Leo Cullen (Leicester Tigers) (capt), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Keith Gleeson (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).

Replacements used: Shane Jennings (Leicester Tigers) for Gleeson (38 mins), Peter Bracken (London Wasps) for McCormack (half-time), Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster) for Sheahan (53), David Gannon (Buccaneers/Connacht) for Ferris, Kieran Campbell (Dungannon/Ulster) for O’Loughlin, Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) for Humphreys, John Hearty (Galwegians/Connacht) for Murphy (all 78).

ENGLAND SAXONS: Mike Brown; Mark Cueto, Chev Walker, Mike Catt (capt), David Strettle; Shane Geraghty, Peter Richards; Tim Payne, Dylan Hartley, Stuart Turner, Dean Schofield, Alex Brown, Chris Jones, James Scaysbrook, Jordan Crane.

Replacements used: James Haskell for Jones (34 mins), Andy Titterrell for Hartley (67), Nick Wood for Turner (71), Ben Woods for Scaysbrook, Richard Wigglesworth for Richards (both 73), Olly Barkley for Catt (74).

Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)