Hugh Hogan’s Leinster team stormed to the top of the IRFU Under-20 Inteprovincial Championship standings with a six-try 40-7 hammering of Connacht, while a penalty from Bill Johnston proved to be the decisive score for Munster in a tense 18-17 victory away to last year’s champions Ulster.
2015/16 IRFU UNDER-20 INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 1 – Friday, September 4
ULSTER UNDER-20s 17 MUNSTER UNDER-20s 18, Queen’s Arena
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Conor Kelly, Lewis McNamara, Matthew Fisher; Con: Andrew Magrath
Munster: Tries: David O’Mahony, John Foley; Con: David O’Mahony; Pens: David O’Mahony, Bill Johnston
LEINSTER UNDER-20s 40 CONNACHT UNDER-20s 7, Donnybrook
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Terry Kennedy 3, David Aspil 2, Hugo Keenan; Cons: Tommy Whittle 2; Pens: Tommy Whittle 2
Connacht: Try: Peter Claffey; Con: Charlie McMicken
David O’Mahony, an Ireland Under-19 international last season, scored 10 points – including the opening try – as the Munster Under-20s pipped Ulster 18-17 in a very competitive encounter in Belfast.
Peter Malone’s youngsters hit the front with a fourth minute penalty from full-back O’Mahony, and the first half ebbed and flowed with both teams attempting to play positively with ball in hand.
Ulster were guilty of giving away too many penalties at critical times which relieved any pressure they were managing to build against a dogged Munster outfit. In fact, it was the visitors that extended their lead when O’Mahony grabbed an unconverted score close to the interval.
This spurred Ulster in action and Queen’s University winger Conor Kelly, playing on his home pitch, reduced the arrears to 8-5 when he finished off a flowing attack just before the half-time whistle.
In an evenly-contested second period, Munster struck first again as impressive Shannon number 8 John Foley took advantage of a well driven rolling maul to cross for their second try. O’Mahony added the extras to give his side a 10-point advantage.
Ulster then started to control more of the set piece play and were rewarded with a try from Instonians flanker Lewis McNamara, who barged over following good work from the Ulster lineout. Ballymena’s Andrew Magrath, who was solid throughout at number 10, converted for a 15-12 scoreline.
From the restart, Ulster was penalised and Magrath’s opposite number Bill Johnston, who got game-time with the Munster senior during their pre-season campaign, stepped up to land what proved to be a vital penalty for Malone’s side with eight minutes remaining.
The resilient Ulster team stormed back into their opponents’ half and following a series of well-worked phases, a textbook maul drive ended with Belfast Harlequins back rower Matthew Fisher touching down for an unconverted try.
In a dramatic finish, Magrath had a superb drop goal effort in the dying seconds but watched in despair as the ball hit the upright, bounced off the cross bar, hit the other upright and bounced back into the field of play. Much to their relief, Munster were able to clear to touch and confirm their opening night win.
ULSTER U-20: Robert Lyttle (Queen’s University); Conor Kelly (Queen’s University), Alex Kane (Queen’s University), Kieran Joyce (Ballymena), Jonny Rosborough (Ballymena); Andrew Magrath (Ballymena), Liam Free (Queen’s University); Ben Halliday (Malone), Adam McBurney (Ballymena) (capt), Peter Cooper (Belfast Harlequins), Harry Cleland (Instonians), Hugh Sloan (Queen’s University), Conall Boomer (Belfast Harlequins), Lewis McNamara (Instonians), Matthew Fisher (Belfast Harlequins).
Replacements: Tristan King (Malone), Andrew Shaw (Rainey Old Boys), Rory Squires (City of Derry), Ronan McCusker (Rainey Old Boys), Saul Herdman (Queen’s University), Chris Gibson (Ballynahinch), Matthew McDowell (Belfast Harlequins), Matthew Hooks (Armagh).
MUNSTER U-20: David O’Mahony (Young Munster); Colm Hogan (Glenstal Abbey School), Paul Kiernan (UCC) (capt), James McAlleese (Glenstal Abbey School), Lee Molloy (Rockwell College); Bill Johnston (Garryowen), John Poland (Presentation Brothers College); Peter Meyer (Young Munster), Shane Fenton (Young Munster), Ben Betts (Young Munster), Sean O’Leary (Cork Constitution), Barra O’Byrne (Garryowen), Kelvin Browne (Shannon), Dan Walsh (Cork Constitution), John Foley (Shannon).
Replacements: Jordan Prenderville (Shannon), Shane O’Hanlon (Christian Brothers College), Rob O’Donovan (Cork Constitution), Pat Staff (Young Munster), Ronan Murphy (Castletroy College), Johnny Glynn (Clongowes Wood College), Tom McHale (Rockwell College), James O’Connor (Young Munster).
The Connacht Under-20s brought a giant pack of forwards to Donnybrook for their Interpro opener, backboned by tighthead prop Conor Kenny and locks Cillian Gallagher and Peter Claffey, their captain. It was advisable for Leinster to lift the tempo and to move the ball wide when appropriate.
Out-half Tommy Whittle switched his kick-off to mine a penalty. The lineout was stolen by Gallagher and rifled clear by Connacht out-half Simon Keller. A partially blocked ball was taken up by Leinster full-back Hugo Keenan for right wing Matt Byrne to use it on a switch move and provide left winger Terry Kennedy with a risky pass for a wonder try in the fifth minute.
The first scrum put-in was struck against the head by Connacht and they went quickly from a free-kick. They were turned over at the ruck, and the aforementioned Byrne was almost away again down the right.
Leinster number 8 Max Deegan (pictured below) made his first break soon after and Keenan was a fingertip away from putting Kennedy, a current Ireland Sevens international, clear on the left. Deegan was back for more, his influence blighted by a spilled ball.
The home side turned the screw in a scrum to earn a penalty. Hooker Hugo Kean was spot-on from the lineout and flanker David Aspil was in the van to double the lead to 10-0 in the 16th minute.
The Connacht scrum churned out a penalty for scum half Steven Kerins to hare away for a 30-metre gain, however the support was too slow and the attack died out. A lightening counter sparked by Byrne’s bravery onto a loose ball was spoiled when Kennedy’s inside pass went astray. A tremendous carry by flanker Matt Burke then took the westerners out of trouble.
Connacht, though, were falling into the trap of playing the scoreboard, moving too much ball from their own territory. Leinster stayed patient in defence and forced the fumble, this time out of prop Matthew Murphy. Leinster full-back Keenan made his way home from a nice inside ball from centre Jimmy O’Brien and Whittle converted for the first time for 17-0 on the half hour mark.
Openside David Aspil was a scourge at the breakdown. It was his turnover that almost culminated in a fourth try, Byrne thwarted ten metres out. They had to settle for Whittle’s penalty. The superb work of Connacht left winger Jack Keegan in the air from the restart created the front-foot ball to draw a penalty, Keller pulling it left of the posts just before the break.
Leinster were soon up to speed again as Deegan and flanker Will Connors took the ball on for hooker Kean to make a dent in the centre. They looked good for points until Connacht centre Ryan Feehily reached out for an interception.
The visitors did manage to get number 8 Matt Cosgrove and Claffey motoring. They just did not have the wherewithal to make it count, with a lineout unfortunately malfunctioning from five metres out.
Leinster were not quite as generous. They made their passes tell for winger Byrne to accelerate into pace and his sweet pass put Kennedy in for his second try and the bonus point score in the 53rd minute.
Scrum half Nick Peters sniped from a tap penalty to put Connacht on the back foot. It took a moment of indiscipline to keep them out, even though Whittle tagged on three more points from his second successful penalty. The heat went out of the contest with a host of changes, and it was left to lively flanker Aspil to claim his second try for 33-0 in the 73rd minute.
Connacht came looking for some consolation from full-back Tim Carroll’s counter and Claffey picked up a 78th minute try for replacement Charlie McMicken to convert. It was left to quicksilver St. Mary’s starlet Kennedy to round out his hat-trick with Whittle converting on the final whistle for a 40-7 success.
LEINSTER U-20: Hugo Keenan; Matt Byrne, Jack Power, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy; Tommy Whittle, Nick Peters; Vakh Abdaladze, Hugo Kean, Adam Coyle, Greg Jones, Michael Melia (capt), Will Connors, David Aspil, Max Deegan.
Replacements: John Molony, James Bollard, Greg McGrath, James Ryan, Neil Reilly, Rowan Osbourne, Matthew Gilsenan, Jake Howlett.
CONNACHT U-20: Tim Carroll; Andrew Lynch, Alan McMahon, Ryan Feehily, Jack Keegan; Simon Keller, Steven Kerins; Matthew Murphy, Caolan Maloney, Conor Kenny, Cillian Gallagher, Peter Claffey (capt), Matt Burke, Gavin Croke, Matt Cosgrove.
Replacements: Conal Slater, Darog Smith, Shane Faulkner, Cian Barry, Neilus Mulvihill, Daire Byrne, Charlie McMicken, Michael Boland.
FIXTURES TO COME:
Friday, September 11 –
CONNACHT U-20s v ULSTER U-20s, the Sportsground, 5pm
MUNSTER U-20s v LEINSTER U-20s, the Mardyke, 7.30pm
Friday, September 18 –
LEINSTER U-20s v ULSTER U-20s, Donnybrook, 7pm
CONNACHT U-20s v MUNSTER U-20s, venue & kick-off time tbc