Team manager Lorcan Balfe took a pragmatic view of the Ireland Under-18 Schools side’s 24-18 defeat to Wales in their U-18 Five Nations Festival opener at Llandovery RFC.
It was not the eventual scoreline, rather the overall superiority of Wales that was dificult to stomach.
The Irish took time to find their feet at the scrum and in the collisions where Wales brought their bulk and greater physical development to bare.
“It took us 20 to 25 minutes to get use to the pace of the game at international level. Wales were physically very strong. They dominated all the exchanges, all the contact,” admitted Ireland U-18 Schools manager Lorcan Balfe.
English referee Luke Pearce neglected the one-and-a-half metre rule – you can only push the opposition back 1.5 metres at this level – at the scrum where Wales moved Ireland that far back on the engagement alone.
It was a reflection of Ireland’s personal, as much as their collective pride that they refused to throw in the towel when trailing 21-6 in the 50th minute and absorbing heavy punishment in the tackle area.
“We were under pressure all the time on our ball. But we came back well. We stuck at the task well to come back and get those two tries,” stressed Balfe.
It was certainly encouraging to see the Irish three-quarters let the ball do the work in finishing off their only chances, while Wales wasted any number of gilt-edged opportunities.
“We moved the ball away from the tackler, exploiting space where we could find it for two tries that were just about given by the referee,” he said.
In fairness, try scorers Conor Gilsenan and Mark Corballis were swarmed by defenders in the act of grounding the ball on both occasions.
The England Under-18s, 29-9 winners over Scotland, are next up for Ireland on Tuesday. The fear would be that a gargantuan White Rose side will make better use of their power than Wales did on day one.
“It is a huge, huge ask to compete with England. They are a huge side. We will work on securing our own ball and making it usable for the backs division,” concluded Balfe.
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