Late tries from wingers Andrew Boyle and Mick McGrath helped the Ireland Under-20s to a 21-17 victory over a Munster Development team at Musgrave Park on Sunday.
CHALLENGE MATCH: Sunday, May 15
MUNSTER DEVELOPMENT XV 17 IRELAND UNDER-20s 21, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Munster Development XV: Tries: Declan Cusack, Craig O’Hanlon, Ian Nagle; Con: Declan Cusack
Ireland U-20s: Tries: Paddy Jackson, Andrew Boyle, Mick McGrath; Pens: James McKinney, Paddy Jackson
The Ireland Under-20s, sponsored by PwC, continued their preparations for next month’s IRB Junior World Championship by taking on some of Munster’s up-and-coming players.
Two different Irish line-ups were fielded in each half with a total of 27 players getting a chance to impress Mike Ruddock and his coaching staff.
Their opening pool match of the Championship against England is now less than four weeks away and the trip to Cork offered a good chance to test out combinations and set piece plays
In humid conditions, Munster’s forwards showed well in the opening quarter and Ian Nagle, Paddy Butler and Peter O’Mahony got through an amount of work at the breakdown and in the loose.
Ireland centres Corey Hircock and JJ Hanrahan, both members of the Munster Academy, combined well, but possession for the most part was with the men in red.
A strong surge from flanker O’Mahony saw him hauled down just short of the whitewash and a quick recycle allowed out-half Declan Cusack enough space to pick off the game’s opening try which he converted himself.
Coming up to the half hour mark, Irish out-half James McKinney landed a penalty, however Munster replied with a try out wide from winger Craig O’Hanlon just before the break.
Paddy Jackson, one of Ireland’s most impressive players during the recent RBS U-20 6 Nations, missed an immediate chance to eat into Munster’s 12-3 interval lead.
But the Ulster-capped youngster redeemed himself by intercepting a pass in his 22 – just as Munster looked poised to score – and racing away to score an unconverted try. He added a penalty in the 64th minute to leave just one point between the sides.
Ireland should have added another try before that. They worked a promising overlap, only for Nagle to step in and produce a try-saving tackle and keep his side ahead on the scoreboard.
Although there were errors from both sides, the commitment and skill level could not be questioned and Munster props James Cronin and John Ryan, in particular, popped up with some forceful carries.
Ireland’s backs, now with Luke Marshall at full-back and Brendan Macken and Nat McDonald in midfield, were seeing more ball and beginning to find space as players tired.
Munster’s experience counted when they turned down a kickable penalty and retained possession from the lineout before influential lock Nagle powered over in the corner for a 70th minute try.
With hooker and captain Niall Annett willing his side on, the Ireland U-20s hit back with a try from winger Andrew Boyle. 17-11 down, they punted a penalty to touch and used quick lineout ball to unleash the backs and put Boyle over in the opposite corner.
The game was still there for the taking and this technically strong and well-drilled Irish side sensed that. With Munster using flanker Brian O’Hara in midfield to cover an injury, the visitors gave Mick McGrath a chance to stretch his legs and the Clontarf clubman got past O’Hara and made the line for the match-winning score.
The performance was the more important aspect of the game for the Irish management, but they will have been pleased nonetheless with the players’ ability to grind out a last-gasp win against what was a talented Munster outfit.
Speaking afterwards, Ruddock said: “We learned a bit of a lesson at the breakdown and that is something we will have to work on. But, overall, this was what we wanted.
“It was nice to get a win but it was never about winning or losing, rather it was to get a look at all these players and help me make the final selection adjustments.
“We have Leinster next week and we have to do a bit of work at the breakdown and on our defence.”
MUNSTER DEVELOPMENT XV: Luke O’Dea (Shannon); Craig O’Hanlon (Young Munster), Cian Bohane (Dolphin), Lukas Kunz (Garryowen), Cathal Quinn (Cork Constitution); Declan Cusack (Garryowen), Brian Slater (UCC); James Cronin (Highfield), Niall Scannell (Dolphin), John Ryan (UCC), Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution), Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution) (capt), Brian O’Hara (UL Bohemians), Paddy Butler (Shannon).
Replacements used: Johnny Holland (UCC) for Kunz (32 mins), Mark Dolan (Ireland Under-20) for Slater (35), Duncan Casey (Shannon) for Scannell (37), Corey Hircork (Ireland Under-20) for Quinn (48), Pa O’Regan (UL Bohemians) for Ryan (50), John Quill (Dolphin) for O’Hara (54).
IRELAND UNDER-20 (First Half): Tiernan O’Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht); Andrew Boyle (UCD/Leinster), Corey Hircock (Garryowen/Munster), JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), Colm O’Shea (Clontarf/Leinster); James McKinney (Queen’s University/Ulster), Kieran Marmion (UWIC/Exiles); Finlay Bealham (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster/Exiles), David Doyle (UCC/Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), Daniel Qualter (Buccaneers/Connacht), Cathal O’Flaherty (Cork Constitution/Munster), Shane Buckley (Garryowen/Munster), Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Aaron Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht).
Replacements used: Luke Marshall (Ballymena//Ulster) for O’Halloran, Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for Doyle (both 28 mins), Conor Carey (Ballymena/Ulster) for Furlong (38).
IRELAND UNDER-20 (Second Half): Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster); Mick McGrath (Clontarf/Leinster), Brendan Macken (Blackrock College/Leinster), Nat McDonald (Worcester Warriors/Exiles), Andrew Boyle (UCD/Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Peter du Toit (UCD/Leinster); Andrew Warwick (Ballymena/Ulster), Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Conor Carey (Ballymena/Ulster), Michael Kearney (Clontarf/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Queens/Ulster), Shane Buckley (Garryowen/Munster), Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Cathal O’Flaherty (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Replacement used: David Doyle (UCD/Leinster) for Henderson (48 mins).
Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)