The Exiles put in a vintage display to defeat an Oxford University Under-21 side in Iffley Road recently, with coaches Peter Halsall and Kevin Bell delighted with the performance which was watched by Ireland Under-20 coach Allen Clarke.
The Exiles Under-20 side lined up against Oxford University Under-21 team at the historic Iffley Road ground in Oxford. Conditions during the first half were poor with heavy showers blowing across the pitch.
Both sides displayed some excellent skills in the conditions. The Exiles had the edge in the scrum with Sean McCarthy, Declan Farrell and Ben Howard putting the Oxford pack under pressure.
In the lineout Oxford had the edge, particularly with the Exiles malfunctioning in this area.
Despite the conditions, the Exiles back-line demonstrated their potential with a combination of skill, pace and power.
The centre partnership of Corey Hircock and Nat McDonald, both members of the Ireland Under-20 training squad, looked particularly effective.
Out-half Jack Dever varied his game effectively and posed questions for the Oxford defence. He orchestrated both of the Exiles’ first half tries to give the Exiles a 14-3 lead at half-time.
As conditions cleared and the physicality of the Exiles game told on the Oxford defence, the Exiles’ back row of Rowan Halsall, Josh Bennett and Charlie Armstrong started to dominate.
Bennett and Armstrong, both Ireland Under-18 Clubs internationals, were dominant in both the lineout and the loose, while openside flanker Halsall frequently broke the Oxford defence with some penetrating runs.
Then it all came together for the Exiles with forwards and backs combining in fast moving plays, going the length of the pitch.
Increasingly, former Ireland Under-18 winger Tchad Collins-Francois and Fraser Carlisle came into the game with probing runs that were well supported by the centres and forwards.
The last 20 minutes of the game saw the Exiles dominate with last season’s Ireland Under-18 openside Callum Burke replacing Bennett and immediately making a 30-metre break which led to a try.
Second half tries were scored by Halsall, Carlisle, Collins-Francois, Devlin-Jones, Hircock and Falvey with Dever adding three conversions.
The final score was 50-13 in favour of the Exiles, although the result does not reflect the competitive nature of the game.