Tries from Matt Crockett and Niall O’Brien, allied to a ten-point kicking haul from Andrew Thompson, saw Ireland to victory in Friday night’s AIB Club International against England Counties.
AIB CLUB INTERNATIONAL: Friday, February 23
IRELAND CLUB XV 20 ENGLAND COUNTIES 17, Donnybrook
Scorers: Ireland Club XV: Tries: Matt Crockett, Niall O’Brien; Cons: Andrew Thompson 2; Pens: Thompson 2
England Counties: Tries: Chris Malherbe, Mark Bedworth; Cons: Neil Hallett 2; Pen: Hallett
Full-Time – Ireland 20 England 17 – The Irish have held on for a well-merited three-point win over England Counties. Many thanks for your company tonight – it is goodbye from a wet Donnybrook. Join us tomorrow for ‘the big one’ at Croke Park!
80+3 mins: Malherbe knocks on and that could be crucial. The next phases see Ireland’s tireless pack maul forward and Keeshan tries a drop goal shot which spirals away to the right. There is hardly time for the 22 drop-out as Ireland regain possession and try scorer O’Brien kicks the ball dead for full-time.
80+2 mins: ENGLAND TRY! England are finishing the stronger, despite some try-saving heroics by O’Brien in the right corner. Some snappy passing in midfield sees Bedworth, the liveliest of the visitors’ backs, get over and in behind the posts for a deserved try. Hallett converts to make it a three-point game. Ireland 20 England 17.
78 mins: Alastair Bressington has a foot in touch as England press for a second try – replacement Bruce did really well to force the winger out.
77 mins: Deservedly so, for his unstinting effort and belief in this Irish side, skipper David Quinlan has been named as the AIB Club man of the match.
73 mins: Barry Keeshan is on the field in place of Thompson. Mark Bruce is also getting a run-out at scrum half, with O’Loughlin taking a well-earned rest.
71 mins: Healy shows commendable determination, following up on his kick ahead, dribbling forward before the ball just squirms away from him, under pressure from Hallett.
68 mins: ENGLAND TRY! A lot of forward grunt gives Chris Malherbe a chance to break for the Irish try line and the South African-born centre shows great strength to get over past two tacklers. Hallett converts from the right to reduce the arrears to ten points. Ireland 20 England 10.
63 mins: The Irish management have thrown Stephen Nolan and Frank Cogan into the fray, with Dan O’Connell and Conor Hartigan making way.
61 mins: The strong running of Telford is coming into play, as the Dungannon man continues to link well with Thompson in the 10-12 channel.
57 mins: Changes for Ireland – Kevin Corrigan and Simon Crawford have come onto the field, replacing Crockett and Merle O’Connell.
56 mins: IRELAND TRY! O’Brien grabs an opportunist try to help Ireland into a 17-point lead. The Clontarf winger followed up on a well-weighted kick through by O’Loughlin and blocked down Hallett’s attempted clearance to speed through and dot down in the right corner. Thompson brilliantly swings over the conversion, five metres in from the touchline. Ireland 20 England 3.
53 mins: Clever kick to the right corner from Thompson, using all of his experience, forces the English pack to retreat again. A strong showing from Geoff Moylan’s men so far in this second half, with the heavens opening above them.
50 mins: Bedworth snipes through the Irish midfield, but once again, his pass is wayward and bounces disappointingly into touch. Crockett’s lineout throw is not straight, but Ireland defend the scrum well and Cork Con winger Healy sends a delightful kick into the English half. The number 11 shows great persistence to follow up and produce a turnover. McCarter takes a good angle but the English tackling is firm and Ireland cannot break into the 22.
48 mins: IRELAND PENALTY! Thompson regains his poise to fire over from just outside the 22, on the left side, for a 13-3 score line. Ireland 13 England 3.
45 mins: Ireland unlucky not to get in for their second try of the night. An intelligent kick to the right corner by McCarter sees Ireland spoil an English lineout throw. After two charges forward by Telford and Conor Hartigan, the backs are released and Niall O’Brien, stopped just short of the try line, just fails to find the supporting Thompson.
42 mins: Bad miss by Thompson from a kickable penalty, 30 metres out from goal – that is his first miss from three place kicks.
Second Half: Kick-Off: Thompson restarts for Ireland – Barr gathers it and Hallett clears. Ireland charge back with Quinlan and Shawe barging into tackles.
Half-Time – Ireland 10 England 3 – Ireland get to the interval with that 10-3 buffer, despite a late assault from England. Shawe does well to spoil a late move, which was inspired by the free-running Bedworth, and referee Neil Paterson blows for half-time.
40+1 mins: IRELAND PENALTY! Thompson holds his concentration well – after the ball had initially fallen off the kicking tee, to land his first penalty kick of the night from 35 metres out. Ireland lead by seven points. Ireland 10 England 3.
39 mins: Asserting some more authority, Ireland are pressing with McCarter showing some good pace and skills, coming up into the line. England are penalised for preventing a quick ruck release.
36 mins: Ballymena prop Simon Shawe is whistled up for a ruck offence and Bedworth can clear for England after a good spell of pressure from the home side.
34 mins: Great ball presentation from Malone and O’Loughlin sees Thompson go for a drop goal attempt but the Shannon veteran pulls his shot to the left and wide.
30 mins: Egg on the face time for Tom Hayman as, after a kick over the top from Irish full-back McCarter sees England launch another counter attack, he pops a pass off his right shoulder to who he tought was a team-mate – turns out it was Irish centre Telford and he retrieves what could have been a disastrous situation for Ireland by finding a good touch on the left flank.
28 mins: Some good skills shown by the Irish – a heavy hit by Merle O’Connell, a good leap by Fiach O’Loughlin when going up for a garryowen and a neat lineout take by Maher. England are still probing well on the counter attack though.
25 mins: Good linking between the England backs, with scrum half Barr sniping well off a midfield ruck to set up an attack that ends frustratingly with a knock-on from Bedworth.
23 mins: Disappointment for Kevin Hartigan as he is forced off with what looks like a rib injury, with Shannon’s Andrew Finn taking his place in the Irish midfield.
20 mins: Good defensive foraging, with Peter Malone and Alan Maher to the fore, sees Ireland take a lineout and rumble forward on another good maul. But following a couple of phases, Thompson knocks on in the tackle.
17 mins: Despite the backing of an energetic brass band, Ireland could be running into trouble soon as a further offside puts them under pressure near their own 22.
14 mins: England are certainly asserting themselves – the Irish are caught offside in midfield and Mark Bedworth sends a penalty kick to touch. But the following phase sees lock Merle O’Connell, a dual status player with Cork Con and Crosshaven, almost intercept a pass and run into open space.
11 mins: ENGLAND PENALTY! The English full-back makes no mistake, firing over from close range to reduce the gap. Ireland 7 England 3.
10 mins: Strong comeback from England, who look dangerous with ball in hand – Graham Barr and Neil Spence are showing well. Ireland are ruled offside at a ruck and Hallett has a second look at the posts, in ideal kicking conditions.
7 mins: IRELAND TRY! Ireland show their intent with Andrew Thompson kicking the resulting penalty to touch, the pack works another maul drive on the left, five metres out, and hooker Crockett gets over for a very good try. Thompson converts with ease. Ireland 7 England 0.
5 mins: Quinlan helps Ireland win a penalty, a neat lineout throw from Matt Crockett sets the Irish off on a considerable maul drive. England Counties are pinged for coming in at the side.
4 mins: A promising start from the visitors, plenty of control at ruck-time and Leek dinks a kick to the right corner which Dungannon’s Richard McCarter gobbles up and clears.
2 mins: England Counties get the first shot at the posts as obstruction in midfield sees full-back Neil Hallett line up a kick, 40 metres from goal but his effort tails away to the left.
First Half: Kick-Off: Matt Leek, the former Leinster out-half, kicks off.
7.04pm: It is a proud moment for back rower David Quinlan as he leads the Ireland Club XV out in an international for the second year running. Dungannon’s Glen Telford has shaken off an injury to start in midfield.
7.03pm: The England Counties team, led by prop Duncan Cormack, runs out onto the pitch at Donnybrook.
Pre-Match: Hello and welcome to Donnybrook for match tracker coverage of tonight’s club international. Thank you for joining us – we hope you can stay with us for the duration of the game, with post-match reaction to follow afterwards. If you can get to a television, RTE Two are also covering the game live.
IRELAND CLUB XV: Richard McCarter (Dungannon); Niall O’Brien (Clontarf), Kevin Hartigan (Garryowen), Glen Telford (Dungannon), Cronan Healy (Cork Constitution); Andrew Thompson (Shannon), Fiach O’Loughlin (Clontarf); Dan O’Connell (Galwegians), Matthew Crockett (Dublin University), Simon Shawe (Ballymena), Merle O’Connor (Cork Constitution), Alan Maher (Lansdowne), Peter Malone (Garryowen), Conor Hartigan (Buccaneers), David Quinlan (Shannon) (capt).
Replacements: Kevin Corrigan (Lansdowne), Stephen Nolan (Terenure College), Simon Crawford (Clontarf), Frank Cogan (Cork Constitution), Mark Bruce (Buccanneers), Barry Keeshan (Dolphin), Andrew Finn (Shannon).
ENGLAND COUNTIES: Neil Hallett (Esher & Surrey); Alastair Bressington (Stourbridge & Gloucestershire), Chris Malherbe (Wharfedale & Yorkshire), Mark Bedworth (Wharfedale & Yorkshire), Mark Sweeney (Launceston & Cornwall); Matt Leek (Esher & Surrey), Graham Barr (Esher & Middlesex); Duncan Cormack (Esher & Surrey) (capt), Liam Wordley (Henley & Staffordshire), Wayne Reed (Launceston & Devon), Richard Snowball (Darlington & Yorkshire), James Winterbottom (Henley & Middlesex), Mike Blakeburn (Esher & Surrey), Neil Spence (Bradford & Bingley & Yorkshire), Tom Hayman (Westcombe Park & Notts, Lincs, Derby).
Replacements: Bevon Armitage (Esher), Tristan Roberts (Cinderford & Kent), Craig Aikman (Halifax & Lancashire), Dave Allen (Blackheath & Kent), Matt Owen (Manchester & Cheshire), James Tideswell (Stourbridge & North Midlands), Tom Doran (Esher & Surrey).
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)