Ireland Under-20 head coach Richie Murphy was delighted with his team’s 38-7 U-20 Six Nations victory over Scotland but insists there is more to come.
This was the Ireland Under-20s’ first competitive game since March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so it was little wonder they were slightly rusty during the opening 40 minutes.
However, a terrific four-try second half performance got their Six Nations campaign off to a bonus point-winning start at Cardiff Arms Park.
“Firstly I’m very happy with the win,” said Murphy afterwards. “We left a few scores out there and were a bit rusty in some of the stuff we did, but overall I’m really pleased with the effort we put in what’s a very strange time.
“They just haven’t played enough rugby to go from where they’ve been to playing international rugby. It’s just too difficult but I thought the lads adapted really well.
“I think the set-piece stuff was really good. I think we were strong in and around the breakdown, and some of our pass quality was good.
“We probably didn’t play to the space enough and the pressure Scotland put on us meant we were a little bit reluctant once or twice to throw some passes.
“That’ll be something we’ll be working on because we need to get the ball to the space a little bit earlier. We did that a little bit better in the second half which is pleasing.”
Ireland tallied up six tries with Alex Soroka, Sam Illo, captain and player-of-the-match Alex Kendellen, Shane Jennings and Jamie Osborne all crossing, while they were also awarded a penalty try.
Arguably the main talking point of the game came when Scotland flanker Harri Morris got shown a red card for recklessly taking out Osborne in the air during the early stages of the second half.
It was an evenly-fought contest up to that point, but Ireland pushed clear after that. Murphy believes Italian referee Gianluca Gnecchi made the correct decision with the sending-off.
“Firstly, player safety has to be paramount, and I thought the referee got that decision right,” he acknowledged.
“It probably made it a little bit more difficult for Scotland because we went after them when they were down to 13 (men) in a couple of mauls, and we also tried to hold our width across the pitch a little bit better.
“We managed at that stage to play to the space a little bit better than we did in the second half. It gave us a little bit more opportunity, and some more belief that we could execute under the pressure we were under.
I’ve really enjoyed this job. Before I ended up as a kicking coach, I would have had some head coach experience, albeit at club level.
“Leinster 18s, 19s, 20s and that sort of stuff. It’s a bit different going back into that but it’s been really good.
“It’s nice to be able to put your own stamp on the team. The young lads I am working with a really good in relation to they are very diligent, always working and looking to get better.
“We couldn’t ask anymore of them. Coming out of this game this week we have so much more to work on which is great, and the lads are really hungry to get going again for the Wales game next Friday.”
A standout performer was number 8 Kendellen whose dynamic ball-carrying and destructive defence paved the way to victory. Murphy believes the Cork youngster has a big future in the game.
“Alex is an incredible young player. There’s little things in his game that he needs to improve on and they’ve been shown to him on a regular basis but his athleticism, his will to win is second to none.
“As a captain he leads very much by example. He’s well thought out and communicates with the lads in a cool and calm manner which is really important.”