John Hodnett and Michael Milne scored their second tries of the Ireland Under-20s’ festive schedule as Noel McNamara’s youngsters ran out 24-20 winners over the Munster Development team at Irish Independent Park.
UNDER-20 SIX NATIONS WARM-UP MATCH: Saturday, December 29
MUNSTER DEVELOPMENT XV 20 IRELAND UNDER-20s 24, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster Development XV: Tries: Luke Clohessy, Alan Tynan; Cons: Ben Healy 2; Pens: Ben Healy 2
Ireland U-20s: Tries: Dylan Tierney, John Hodnett, Michael Milne; Cons: Harry Byrne, Jake Flannery, Bruce Houston; Pen: Bruce Houston
HT: Munster Development XV 10 Ireland U-20s 7
The Ireland Under-20s, sponsored by PwC, got another chance to impress the coaches in Cork as the U-20 Six Nations Championship draws ever closer. Irish Independent Park will host the tournament opener against England on Friday, February 1 (kick-off 7.15pm).
Hooker Dylan Tierney’s eighth-minute try was cancelled out by a Luke Clohessy effort off a scrum, adding to a Ben Healy penalty, as the Munster Development side – led by senior-capped forward Sean O’Connor – took a 10-7 half-time lead.
Healy made it a six-point game before the Ireland U-20s enjoyed a decisive spell which earned them 17 points, including an opportunist John Hodnett try and a 72nd-minute close-range clincher from prop Michael Milne. Alan Tynan’s seven-pointer made it a nervy final few minutes but Noel McNamara’s youngsters stood firm to complete a December double over Leinster and Munster.
Healy was narrowly wide with an early penalty attempt from inside the 10-metre line, while the Ireland U-20s were first to threaten a try. Harry Byrne and Sean French’s sharp passing invited Liam Turner in off his wing, and his offload out of a tackle had David Hawkshaw racing towards the 22 but his kick through for Byrne was well covered by full-back Tynan.
An overthrown lineout spoiled a promising position for Munster, five metres out, and it took a try-saving tackle from Conor Phillips to deny Ireland from the initial breakout, with Jonathan Wren stopped short after French’s superb run from the 22. However, a strong bout of carrying from the forwards saw Tierney crash over for the opening try, well supported by Martin Moloney’s latch.
Following Byrne’s conversion, a high hanging restart from Healy caused trouble for the visitors and a well-earned scrum penalty was turned into three points by the Garryowen clubman. Munster Development captain O’Connor then came up trumps to secure a turnover from an Irish maul, ten metres out from his own line.
Munster began to show more in attack as Tynan increased his influence, his soft hands releasing James McCarthy on a kick chase and it was Wren who managed to touch down for the concession of a scrum rather than a try. Pressure from the resulting reset scrum gave number 8 Clohessy the platform to break and crash over for his seven-pointer, getting past the covering Byrne and Moloney.
Aided by their well-drilled set piece, Munster remained 10-7 in front up to the interval with Alex McHenry pulled up for crossing which denied Tommy Downes a try under the posts. Both teams looked to play with more width and create opportunities for their respective back-threes, and there were a couple of noteworthy late breaks from Irish half-backs Byrne and Craig Casey, their captain.
Ireland got on the front foot on the resumption, with Munster infringing at a scrum and Hawkshaw and Hodnett both getting over the gain-line. Munster skipper O’Connor held up Byrne for a maul turnover, and Josh Wycherley was soon pinged for going off his feet at a ruck, allowing Healy to extend the lead to 13-7 with a pinpoint penalty.
However, Munster were caught cold just a few minutes later as Ulster Academy back Iwan Hughes made a very good impact off the Irish bench. Hawkshaw was first to a lineout thrown over the top, carrying hard into the 22 before Hodnett did really well to slip out of a McHenry tackle, stay on his feet and avoid Healy’s despairing challenge to raid in behind the posts.
Taking over the kicking duties from the replaced Byrne, Jake Flannery added the extras from straight in front, and he then combined with Hawkshaw to open up the Munster midfield for Hughes to charge straight through and up past halfway. Ireland’s replacement forwards upped the physicality, and Bruce Houston’s right boot made it 17-13 after Moloney was tackled by McHenry without the ball.
David McCann, another of the Ulster Academy contingent, caught the eye with his carrying and breaking ability, one such surge seeing him link with fellow replacement Milne to go from the Irish 10-metre line to the Munster 22. Hawkshaw gained further ground, getting his side within sight of the line before Milne, with timely support from John McKee, muscled over for his try a few phases later.
Houston clipped over the conversion but Munster hit back from the restart, Liam Coombes chasing hard and Clohessy coming up with quick ball which was shipped out to the right where Tynan turned on the pace, got through a gap and used his momentum to score in the corner despite Hawkshaw bringing him to ground before the whitewash.
Healy nailed the difficult conversion from out wide to reduce the arrears to 24-20, with little over five minutes remaining. Ireland wore down the clock with Caolan Englefield directing operations from ruck to ruck, and although Munster had one last opportunity from a lineout, Moloney got over the ball at a breakdown to force a decisive penalty past the 80-minute mark.
MUNSTER DEVELOPMENT: Alan Tynan; Conor Phillips, Alex McHenry, Tommy Downes, James McCarthy; Ben Healy, Jack Stafford; Shane O’Hanlon, Billy Scannell, Keynan Knox, Sean O’Connor (capt), Eoin O’Connor, Jack Daly, Dan Walsh, Luke Clohessy.
Replacements used: Eoghan Clarke, Aaron Hennessy, Luke Masters, Dave Hyland, Colm Reilly (Buccaneers/Connacht), Liam Coombes, Ollie Morris (Saracens/IQ Rugby).
IRELAND UNDER-20: Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster); Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean French (Cork Constitution/Munster), David Hawkshaw (Clontarf/Leinster), Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster); Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster), Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) (capt); Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Dylan Tierney (Corinthians/Connacht), Tom Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster), JJ McKee (Ballymena/Ulster), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht), Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere/Leinster), John Hodnett (UCC/Munster).
Replacements used: John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster), Ryan Lomas (Galwegians/Connacht), Brian Deeny (Clontarf/Leinster), Ronan Watters (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster), Caolan Englefield (London Irish/IQ Rugby), Bruce Houston (Ballymena/Ulster), Conor Hayes (Young Munster/Connacht), Iwan Hughes (Ballynahinch/Ulster).
Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)