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Young Exiles Tour A Success

Young Exiles Tour A Success

The Exiles Under-18 tour to Ireland was hailed as a success by IRFU President John Callaghan. The Young Exiles came together just a few days prior to the tour and acquitted themselves admirably both on and off the pitch.

On August 27, a total of 26 young rugby players met for the first time at the start of what would be their first taste of Irish rugby.

They arrived in Armagh late that evening and made this their base until Sunday morning. 

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Friday morning was spent at Armagh Royal School getting to know each other and putting together some structure to their game under coaches Kevan Bell and Danny Lyons.

Then, it was off to Malone RFC in Belfast where they would face the Ulster Under-18 Clubs side.

In an evenly-contested game, both sides made the breakdown a very physical contest. The Exiles defence held against a number of Ulster attacking moves. 

They then edged ahead with a penalty from captain and Ireland Under-18 International Grant Connon.

By this stage the Exiles scrum was getting on top and the Exiles backs moved the ball on every occasion.

This pressure was rewarded when Connon kicked his second penalty from the touchline. 

The game could still have gone either way until in the last quarter of the game the Exiles put together a series of interpassing moves between forwards and backs which resulted in Connon going over near the posts. 

Grant’s conversion brought his personal total to 13 points, scoring all the Exile’s points.

At the post-match dinner, John Callaghan, the IRFU President, applauded both teams on a hard-fought and entertaining game.

He told his audience how important the Exiles were to Irish rugby. He congratulated the Exiles on the contribution they continue to make to Ireland’s cause.

On Saturday morning, the Exiles counted the cost of their victory against Ulster.

Kieran Marmion, the Ireland U-18 scrum half, was out injured as was hooker Chris Delaney. Still, the Exiles had to prepare for their second interprovincial game in 36 hours as Leinster waited for them in Ashbourne.

An early start from Armagh saw the Exiles arrive at Ashbourne RFC’s excellent facilities. Despite the poor weather, the pitch was in excellent condition.

The Exiles started the game well against an organised Leinster U-18 team. They enjoyed some 15 minutes of early pressure in the Leinster half but could not convert this into points.

Leinster, who already had three games together, started to demonstrate their superior organisation and continually stretched the Exiles’ defence. The Exiles held firm and went ahead with a Connon penalty. 

Their lead was short lived as Leinster scored a converted try to go 7-3 ahead for half-time.

The second half saw the Leinster side dominate for the first 25 minutes and stretch their advantage to 19-3. However, the Exiles lifted their tired bodies for a final push and kept continuous pressure on the home outfit. 

They were finally rewarded for their efforts when scrum half Jack Walsh crossed for an unconverted try to bring the final score to 19-8 to Leinster U-18 Clubs.

The tour achieved its primary objectives, giving these dual-qualified players a positive insight into Irish rugby, developing them as young men and providing them with an opportunity to impress the Ireland U-18 Clubs management team of Greg Lynch and Willie Gribben, who were in attendance at the games. 

There was also an added bonus when Exile tighthead prop Bryan Johnson from the USA met up for the first time with his relatives in Leinster.

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