The Ireland Under-18 Clubs team ran in seven tries against Russia in Treviso on Sunday to get their FIRA-AER European Championship campaign off to an impressive start.
2008 FIRA-AER UNDER-18 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP: Sunday, March 16
GROUP A – QUARTER-FINAL:
IRELAND U-18 CLUBS XV 53 RUSSIA U-18 0, Casale Sul Sile, Treviso
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: James Stephenson 2, David Lynch, Luke O’Dea, Kieran Brookes, Tchad Collins Francois, Callum McKie; Cons: Callum McKie 3, Adam Kennedy 3; Pens: Adam Kennedy 2
This Irish side, coached by Greg Lynch and managed by Willie Gribben, confidently dispatched a game but limited Russia to qualify for the Group A semi-finals at the championship.
Their opening game could hardly have gone any better as Ireland tallied up a half century of points and came through it without any injury worries.
The win sets up a semi-final clash with England, who beat Georgia 53-3 in their opener. Of course, Ireland and England met in this Under-18 tournament last year with the boys in green claiming a memorable 10-7 victory before they lost in a penalty shoot-out to hosts France in the final.
Seeded second in this year’s tournament, Ireland raced out of the blocks against Russia and were 25-0 in front by half-time. Centre David Lynch spied a gap and sliced through in the fourth-minute for Ireland’s opening try, which scrum half Adam Kennedy converted.
Buccaneers clubman Kennedy booted a ninth-minute penalty and just moments later he was converted a try scored by full-back Luke O’Dea, after an impressive back-line move.
After a second Kennedy penalty, the Irish forwards got in amongst the tries as prop Kieran Brookes powered over off a close range drive just before the break.
Kennedy converted that score and he also added the extras to winger Tchad Collins Francois’ 36th-minute effort as the Irish made a blistering start to the second half.
Frustration was beginning to get the better of the Russians and, in all, they had three players sin-binned during this entertaining encounter – with their replacement prop and full-back seeing yellow in the second half.
Defensively, Ireland were very sound, the pack tackled tigerishly and the back-three of O’Dea, Collins Francois and Robert Kennedy dealt well with any dangerous ball inside the Irish 22.
The seven-try success was rounded off with two of the team’s Exiles getting over for tries. London Irish flanker James Stephenson burst through for a brace of well-taken scores – after 45 and 66 minutes.
Brentwood number 10 Callum McKie converted both of those tries and also added the extras to his 63rd-minute try as the gulf in quality between the sides became all too obvious.
Admittedly ‘delighted’ with the squad’s performance, Willie Gribben said afterwards: “You have to remember this was a team of unknown quality playing together for the very first team, while we were up against a Russian side that we knew very little about.
“It was great to see the boys do so well and hopefully we can continue that into Wednesday’s semi-final against England.
“We would be reasonably confident going into this game after what happened last year. But I think England possibly underestimated us last year and are not going to be caught cold again. They had someone videoing our game against Russia!”
IrishRugby.ie will bring you details of the Irish starting line-up for the game against England as soon as it is announced.
IRELAND UNDER-18 CLUBS XV: Luke O’Dea (Shannon/Munster); Tchad Collins Francois (Truro College/Exiles), Eoin Griffin (Corinthians/Connacht), David Lynch (Naas/Leinster), Robert Kennedy (Longford/Leinster); Callum McKie (Brentwood/Exiles), Adam Kennedy (Buccaneers/Connacht); James Robinson (Corinthians/Connacht) (capt), Declan Farrell (Leeds Carnegie/Exiles), Kieran Brookes (Fylde/Exiles), Shane Casey (Castlebar/Connacht), Dean Landy (Carrick-on-Suir/Munster), Aaron Spring (Sligo/Connacht), James Stephenson (London Irish/Exiles), Josh Bennett (Gloucester/Exiles).
Replacements used: Mark Dolan (Buccaneers/Connacht) for A Kennedy, Kailyn Domican (Naas/Leinster) for Griffin (both 42 mins), Fergal Lynch (Virginia/Ulster) for Robinson, James Simpson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) for Brookes (both 46), Aidan Mulligan (Bective Rangers/Leinster) for Bennett (50), Karl Egan (Corinthians/Connacht) for Farrell, Andrew Boyle (St. Brigid’s/Leinster) for O’Dea (both 54). Not used: Paul Molloy (Waterpark/Munster), Dominic Gallagher (Lisburn/Ulster), Niall Earls (Wicklow/Leinster), Gavin Nyawata (Naas/Leinster).