The Irish Colleges team, sponsored by Treasury Holdings, lost for the first time this season on Friday night as they went down 30-14 to a strong-running English Students XV at Henley RFC. After wins over the UK Combined Services Under-23s and Scottish Universities, the result ended the Irish’s Grand Slam hopes.
2008 COLLEGES’ FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT: Friday, March 14
ENGLISH STUDENTS XV 30 IRISH COLLEGES XV 14, Henley RFC, Oxfordshire
Scorers: English Students: Tries: Adrian Griffiths, Adrian Wright, Tom Hockedy 2, Tim Stevenson; Con: Tim Stevenson; Pen: Tim Stevenson
Irish Colleges: Try: John Nicol; Pens: Phil De Barra 3
In this the inaugural Four Nations tournament, the Irish Colleges outfit clocked up some impressive wins – beating the UK Combined Forces Under-23s by 40-0 in London last month and in their most recent game, they ran out 45-8 winners over the Scottish Universities at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown.
Eamonn Molloy’s squad travelled across to Henley RFC hoping to keep up their winning run and end the tournament on a high.
But the English Students are recognised as the top student team in the United Kingdom in recent years and with their large playing base, they boast plenty of strength in depth.
The Irish played well in the first half at Dry Leas, competing ferociously at the breakdown and winning some notable turnovers. However, two yellow cards in the final quarter for replacement number 8 Ian Cullinane and tighthead prop Stephen Snell helped the home side bolster their lead and see out the win.
The English led 13-8 at half-time following early tries from lock Adrian Griffiths and winger Adrian Wright. A hurried clearance out of his 22 from Phil De Barra gave the hosts some good field position and they took full advantage as number 8 Andries Pretorius charged forward off the back of a lineout maul and put Griffiths over for his try.
The English Students’ second touchdown saw centre Phillip Ellis and full-back Tom Jarvis combine before Wright popped up to score in the right corner.
Ireland’s only try of the contest arrived when winger David Rowan did well to shrug off a tackle from Ellis and full-back John Nicol was up in support to take the pass and dot down. That added to a 14th-minute penalty from De Barra.
The De La Salle Palmerston clubman knocked over two further penalties after 41 and 49 minutes to edge the Irish into a 14-13 lead but the home side, with the help of their beefy pack, soon turned the game in their favour.
The loss of Cullinane (61 minutes) and Snell (68) was crucial as it allowed the English to dominate the exchanges up front. While Cullinane was sin-binned, the hosts managed to put winger Tom Hockedy over for two tries.
While down to 13 men for a time, the Irish Colleges leaked a try to out-half Tim Stevenson, who had a poor night with the boot as he missed five kicks at goal.
But they were not needed as that run of three tries in the space of nine minutes rounded off the win for the English Students.
ENGLISH STUDENTS: T Jarvis (UWE Hartpury); A Wright (Loughborough), T Gregory (Oxford), P Ellis (Hertfordshire), T Hockedy (Exeter); T Stevenson (UWE Hartpury), D Shaw (Newcastle); A Liffchak (Hertfordshire), J Moyce (St. Mary’s College), J Horn-Smith (Exeter), I Kench (Loughborough) (capt), A Griffiths (Bath), P Clarke (Oxford), M Denbee (Plympouth), A Pretorius (UWE Hartpury).
Replacements used: J Lumby (Cambridge) for Pretorius (48 mins), K Davis (Oxford) for Horn-Smith (57), T Henry (Oxford) for Shaw (67), C Ashwin (Bath) for Stevenson (74), M Cross (Loughborough) for Moyce, S Pitfield (Loughborough) for Griffiths, S Armstrong (Leeds Met) for Hockedy (all 76).
IRISH COLLEGES: John Nicol (Stranmillis College, Belfast/Ballymena); Philip Howard (Design Inst Art Tech Dun Laoghaire/Clontarf), Paddy O’Toole (Garda/Connemara), Mick O’Shea (Garda/Suttonians), David Rowan (Inst Art Design Tech Dun Laoghaire/Blackrock College); Phil De Barra (Institute of Technology Carlow/De La Salle Palmerston), Brendan O’Brien (Blackhall Place/Wanderers); Shane Cahill (Dun Laoghaire VEC/Blackrock College), Jason Taggart (UUJ/Ballymena), Stephen Snell (National College of Ireland/Greystones), Damien Carley (Institute of Technology Carlow/County Carlow), Ben Reilly (Dublin City University/Suttonians), John Downey (Sallynoggin VEC/Greystones), Hugh Hogan (Griffith College Dublin/St. Mary’s College), Dan Kenny (Dun Laoghaire VEC/Greystones).
Replacements used: Ian Cullinane (NUI Galway/Galwegians) for Kenny (59 mins), Alan Guiry (Limerick IT/Nenagh Ormond) for Downey (74-77, blood sub), Barry Holmes (DIT/Greystones) for Carley (75), Jonny Morgan (UUJ/Belfast Harlequins) for Taggart, Craig Morrin (Institute of Technology Tallaght/St. Mary’s College) for O’Shea, Brian Moroney (Institute of Technology Tallaght/Terenure College) for Rowan (all 80).
Referee: David Walker (Scotland)