The Ireland Under-18 Schools squad, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, made a winning start to their U-18 Five Nations Festival campaign with a deserved 22-15 win over Wales in Parma, building confidence ahead of their match on Wednesday against host nation Italy.
2009 UNDER-18 FIVE NATIONS FESTIVAL: Sunday, April 12
IRELAND UNDER-18 SCHOOLS 22 WALES UNDER-18 15, Stadio Aprile, Parma
Scorers: Ireland Tries: Andrew Conway 2, Alex Kelly; Con: Tiarnan O’Halloran 2; Drop: Gareth Quinn McDonagh
Wales: Pens: Tom Prydie 5
In sunny conditions at the Stadio Aprile in Parma, Ireland produced a winning blend of strong forward play and assured handling from their backs.
It was the Paul Barr and Kenny Hooks-coached Irish who garnered the first points with a drop goal by out-half Gareth Quinn McDonagh after an early bout of pressure close to the Welsh try-line.
Wales’ indiscipline allowed Ireland to gain a strong field position through a couple of touchfinders from Crescent Comprehensive pupil Quinn McDonagh.
From the ensuing phase of play, number 8 Jordi Murphy burst away from the tail of the lineout before handing on to Brendan Macken who sent full-back Andrew Conway racing in for a fine try and an 8-0 lead.
It was a Blackrock 1-2-3 as Murphy, Macken and Conway all hail from the Williamstown school.
Wales came into the game with a penalty from full-back Tom Prydie but from set piece ball, impressive centre Macken again showed his handling skills to put Conway in for his second try, this time converted by Roscrea winger Tiarnan O’Halloran.
Barr’s youngsters looked set to increase their lead when blindside flanker Stephen Leckey from Methody made a charge to the line only to be called back for crossing.
In the event, it was Wales who grabbed the next points with a second penalty by Prydie and just before half-time the full-back slotted his third goal to cut Ireland’s lead to 15-9 at the break.
Another penalty by Prydie, at the beginning of the second half, narrowed Ireland’s advantage to just three points, giving Wales the confidence to step it up in attack.
Ireland’s defence, however, withstood a steady assault on the line, but at the expense of a fourth penalty goal from Prydie.
Having survived this siege, the boys in green returned to attacking play and were rewarded when St. Michael’s student Alex Kelly slipped through a gap in midfield for a fine try, converted by O’Halloran.
A fifth penalty by Prydie brought Wales to within a converted try of Ireland and it seemed that the Welsh youngsters might just pull off a draw with several chances at the end.
First, Dale Ford was presented with an interception chance but the centre just failed to hold the ball and then when full-back Prydie made a determined run down the right touchline his pass to the supporting runners just failed to find target, leaving Wales left musing what might have been.
On the whole, it was a very encouraging start to the tournament for Barr, his management team and the players. Next up for them is a crunch game against hosts Italy in Parma on Wednesday (kick-off 4.30pm local time).
The Five Nations Festival, which last year was hosted by the IRFU in Cork, is a hugely popular event bringing together teams from five of the six nations (France are not taking part this year).
IRELAND UNDER-18 SCHOOLS: Andrew Conway (Blackrock College/Leinster); Tiarnan O’Halloran (Cistercian College Roscrea/Leinster), Brendan Macken (Blackrock College/Leinster), Alex Kelly (St. Michael’s College/Leinster), Chris Colvin (Royal School Armagh/Ulster); G Quinn McDonagh (Crescent CC/Munster), Peter du Toit (King’s Hospital/Leinster); James Tracy (Newbridge College/Leinster), Niall Annett (Methodist College/Ulster) (capt), Martin Moore (Castleknock College/Leinster), David O’Mahony (Presentation College/Munster), Aaron Spring (Sligo Grammar School/Connacht), Stephen Leckey (Methodist College/Ulster), David Doyle (Gonzaga College/Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Blackrock College/Leinster).
Replacements used: Shane Buckley (Rockwell College/Munster), Paddy Marks (RBAI/Ulster), Niall Scannell (Presentation College/Munster).
WALES UNDER-18: Tom Prydie (Porthcawl Comp); Luke Williams (Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig), Dale Ford (Strade), Jack Gadd (Filton College), Eli Walker (Swansea College); Matthew Morgan (Bridgend College), Adam Jones (Filton College); Rowan Jenkins (CSG), Leaun Davies (Treorchy), Rhodri Jones (Llandovery College), Lloyd Peers (Pencoed College) (capt), McCauley Cook (Bridgend College), Edward Siggery (QEHS), Tom Young (Rhydywaun), David Barry (Neath College)
Replacements used: Nicky Williams (Filton College), George North (Llandovery College), Lewis Robling (Ysgol Gyfum Gwynliyw), Ben Thomas (Bryntirion CS), Tom Crandon (Cross Keys College), Gareth Harvey (Pencoed College), Lewis Smout (Coleg Powys)
Referee: Johann van der Merwe (Scotland)
Ireland Under-18 Schools Management –
Manager – Lorcan Balfe
Coach – Paul Barr
Assistant Coach – Kenny Hooks
Ireland Under-18 Schools Fixtures –
Wednesday, April 15 (Italy v Ireland) Parma kick-off 4.30pm
Saturday, April 18 (England v Ireland) Colorno kick-off 4pm