The Ireland Under-18 Clubs side (sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers) overhauled a five-point half-time deficit to defeat a physically tough Georgian side 19-11 and earn a place in the final of the FIRA-AER U-18 European Championship for the third time in four years.
FIRA-AER UNDER-18 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP – GROUP A: Wednesday, March 31
IRELAND U-18 CLUBS XV 19 GEORGIA U-18 11, Casale Sul Sile Stadium, Treviso
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Michael Sherlock, Shane Layden; Pens: Callum Boland 3
Georgia: Try: Sandro Koiava; Pen: Godedrzi Chincharaull; Drop: Godedrzi Chincharaull
Ireland started strongly and straight from the kick-off they mauled the Georgians back into their own 22, but failed to capitalise on the lineout and and turned over the ball.
From there, the Georgians struck back and drew first blood, eight minutes in, with a well-taken drop goal from out-half Godedrzi Chincharaull.
Ireland had plenty of possession but might have been better served looking for position as Georgia kept the pressure on.
But, on the 20-minute mark, a fine break from out-half Grant Connon forced the Georgians into conceding a penalty which full-back Callum Boland slotted neatly.
Georgia’s physicality told just a few minutes later, with a driving maul off a lineout in the Irish 22 leading to a try for lock Sandro Koiava. The conversion went wide to leave it 8-3 to Georgia.
Another Ireland attack, spearheaded by Connon, drew a penalty which he Boland knocked over.
However, Georgia finished the first half attacking the Ireland line and Chincharaull landed another penalty to leave Ireland trailing 11-6 at the break.
Ireland came out of the blocks quickest in the second half and their greater experience began to tell as they overhauled the lead within a matter of minutes.
First up, Boland slotted another penalty after good pressure from the Irish pack and then came a well-executed try to put Greg Lynch’s charges ahead.
A scrum near the left touchline led to a sweeping back-line move with the ball slipped to centre Michael Sherlock who beat two defenders to score on the right hand side, putting Ireland 14-11 in front in the 43rd minute.
Further pressure from Ireland, with Shane Layden on for Joe Keane on the left wing, saw them dominate territory for the next few minutes and another break put replacement Layden through to score Ireland’s second try a minute after he was introduced.
Ireland led 19-11 and despite a brave attempt from the Georgians to get back into the game, the U-18 Clubs side held on to secure a place in the final.
There were fine performances from the team as a whole, with lock Alan O’Connor very strong up front securing lineout and kick-off ball well.
Ireland U-18 Clubs team manager Willie Gribben was pleased with the final result, saying: “It was a hard-earned but well-deserved victory, played in difficult underfoot conditions because of the heavy rain the night before.
“Credit to Georgia who really put it up to us but we came out strong in the end and now we look forward to playing France in the final.”
Ireland now face France, who defeated Belgium 21-0, in the Group A final of the FIRA-AER U-18 European Championship at Stadio Comunale di Monigo – the home of Benetton Treviso – on Saturday.
This will be the third time in four years that the two sides have clashed in the final, with France the victors in the previous two encounters.
You can watch the full Ireland v Georgia match and short highlights of the opening win over Germany by clicking here.
IRELAND U-18 CLUBS XV: Callum Boland (Buccaneers – Connacht); Ferdia Kenny (Presentation Bray/Greystones – Leinster), Michael Sherlock (Skerries – Leinster), Thomas Daly (Carlow – Leinster), Joe Keane (UL Bohemians – Connacht); Grant Connon (Newcastle Falcons – Exiles), Kieran Marmion (Kirkham GS – Exiles); Kieran Ball (Wellington College/Saracens – Exiles), Jonathan Murphy (Banbridge – Ulster), Tadhg Furlong (New Ross – Leinster) (capt), Conor Kindregan (Monivea – Connacht), Alan O’Connor (Skerries – Leinster), Charles Gallagher (Banbridge – Ulster), Conor Clancy (Stoneyhurst College/London Irish – Exiles), Eoghan Masterson (Portlaoise – Leinster).
Replacements used: Shane Layden (Cistercian Coll. Roscrea – Connacht) for Keane (52 mins), Jack Walsh (London Wasps – Exiles) for Marmion, Cian McGovern (Crosshaven – Munster) for Kenny (both 70). Not used: Tom Margetson (Wellington College – Exiles), Jake Considine (Young Munster – Munster), Christopher Tonge (Skerries – Leinster), Daniel Mannion (Wicklow – Leinster), Conor Ryan (Navan – Leinster), Akhlaque Khan (Navan – Leinster), Jack Carty (Buccaneers – Connacht), Christopher Farrell (Clogher Valley – Ulster).
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