Eric Elwood’s Ireland side remained on track for a crack at the Under-20 Six Nations championship and a Grand Slam as they edged past their English counterparts on Friday night.
UNDER-20 SIX NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 23
IRELAND U-20 13 ENGLAND U-20 6, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Shane Monahan; Con: Ian Keatley; Pens: Keatley 2
England: Pens: David Doherty 2
Trinity winger Shane Monahan scored the only try at Dubarry Park as Ireland maintained their 100% record in this year’s inaugural U-20 championship.
Elwood’s youngsters, with loosehead prop Cian Healy claiming the official man of the match award, brilliantly recorded their third straight win of the competition and now stand a good chance of lifting the title, with only Scotland and Italy left to play. England still have to face France, who are fielding an Under-21 side this year.
In wet conditions, Monahan stooped to take a low pass and glide over just before the break.
UCD out-half Ian Keatley converted and added two second half penalties to send the 4,000-strong Athlone crowd into raptures. England, the defending champions, could only tally up two penalties from full-back David Doherty.
The Irish were left singing in the rain in the midlands, but they had to come from behind after Doherty had booted England into a fifth-minute lead.
England missed out on a try soon after – Alex Shaw’s pass to Chevvy Pennycook was ruled forward – and the Irish charge gathered momentum.
A thrilling move, which saw the hosts take the ball a full 70 metres, almost saw them get over for a try but scrum half Paul O’Donohoe uncharacteristically knocked on as he searched for the try-scoring pass.
But big winger Monahan, who came up through the youth ranks with Boyne RFC, did the business when he showed great balance to take a pass and score his vital try after 39 minutes. Aidan Wynne and David Pollock made the initial yardage off a ruck, Conor McInerney then linked with the supporting Richard Sweeney before Monahan took possession to crash over.
7-3 ahead at the break, the Irish were looking good but despite a series of injuries, England bounced back with Doherty slamming over his second penalty and the Wasps player narrowly failed with another place-kick, just moments later.
Keatley, whose accuracy with the boot was key to Ireland’s wins against Wales and France, came into his own again in the final quarter. Ireland did have further try-scoring – Healy and Keith Earls were both stopped just short of the line – but it was left to the number 10 to see out the win.
Having missed a first half penalty and a drop goal shot, former Belvedere College schoolboy Keatley saw another penalty chance go awry before he showed superb mental strength to rediscover his form and land two penalties, on 82 and 89 minutes, and guide his side to another famous win.
IRELAND U-20: Felix Jones (Seapoint/Leinster); Shane Monahan (Dublin University/Leinster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Aidan Wynne (Buccaneers/Connacht), Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster); Ian Keatley (UCD/Leinster), Paul O’Donohoe (UCD/Leinster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Richard Sweeney (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Jamie Hagan (Greystones/Leinster), Conor McInerney (UCD/Leinster), Andrew Browne (Galwegians/Connacht), Thomas Anderson (Dungannon/Ulster), David Pollock (Queen’s University/Ulster) (capt), Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster).
Replacements used: Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) for O’Brien (32 mins), Ruaidhri Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Hagan, Neilus Keogh (UCC/Munster) for McInerney (both 78). Not used: Ger Slattery (Young Munster/Munster), David Drake (Ballymena/Ulster), Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Kyle Tonetti (Blackrock College/Leinster).
ENGLAND U-20: David Doherty (London Wasps); Ollie Dodge (Leicester Tigers), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Adam Powell (Saracens), Selorm Kuadey (Sale Sharks); Seb Jewell (NEC Harlequins), Danny Care (NEC Harlequins) (capt); Charlie Beech (Northampton Saints), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Dave Attwood (Bristol Rugby), Phil Hoy (Northampton Saints), Alex Shaw (Leicester Tigers), Chevvy Pennycook (Bristol Rugby), David Tait (Sale Sharks).
Replacements used: Matt Cox (Worcester Warriors) for Attwood, Frankie Neale (Saracens) (both half-time), Hugo Ellis (London Wasps) for Tait, Jordan Turner-Hall (NEC Harlequins) for Neale (both 48), Tom Stanfield (London Irish) for Mullan, Mullan for Cole (80+1). Not used: Tom Mercey (Saracens), Richard Bolt (Exeter Chiefs).
Referee: Neil Ballard (Wales)