Andy Wood’s Leinster team ran in eight tries against Connacht in Athlone to move a step closer to retaining the PwC IRFU Under-19 Men’s Interprovincial crown.
Tadhg Brophy and Conor Tonge scored two tries each in a 56-7 bonus point victory for Leinster, who host second-placed Ulster in a mouth-watering title decider at Energia Park next Saturday.
Wood’s youngsters are top of the table with 10 points and a +54 scoring difference. Ulster have six points (+32), with Munster now on five after edging out the northern side 19-15 in a hard-fought clash in Cork.
Replacement Jack Somers’ decisive late try gave Brendan O’Connor’s Munster outfit their first win of the campaign. Ulster had led on two separate occasions, but they were outscored by three tries to two in the end.
Connacht, who have had some fine individual performances with centre Hugh Gavin catching the eye, will close out the Championship this Sunday with a trip to the University of Limerick to play Munster.
PWC IRFU UNDER-19 MEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2: Saturday, August 27
CONNACHT UNDER-19s 7 LEINSTER UNDER-19s 56, Dubarry Park, Buccaneers RFC
Scorers: Connacht: Try: Hugh Gavin; Con: Senan Phelan
Leinster: Tries: Niall O’Hanlon, Tadhg Brophy 2, Sean Naughton, Conor Tonge 2, Luke Policky, Stephen Smyth; Cons: Sean Naughton 6, Tom Larke 2
HT: Connacht 0 Leinster 28
Connacht and Leinster both showed an eagerness to play with width from the early stages, opposing wingers Andrew Quinn and Sean Fox getting opportunities to stretch their legs but the visitors were first to threaten.
Sean Hopkins and Tomas Farthing earned the defensive plaudits for the westerners as Leinster were held up twice in quick succession before their next raid delivered points.
An eighth-minute penalty was tucked away into the right corner and Athy hooker Niall O’Hanlon crashed over from a well-driven lineout maul. Sean Naughton’s conversion made it a seven-pointer.
Cathal Kelly was crowded out in his attempts to respond for Connacht, and Leinster extended their lead to 14-0 soon after. Naughton’s inviting pop pass put full-back Hugo McLaughlin darting up into the 22 and he fed the supporting Brophy (pictured below) to go over by the posts.
Connacht captain Max Flynn narrowly missed out on an interception, the ball just evading his grasp, and the home side were unable to convert two promising maul opportunities due to a knock-on and then a turnover.
Good approach work from Leinster, including locks Michael O’Reilly and James O’Loughlin, paved the way for Kilkenny College out-half Naughton to slip in between two defenders and dot down in the 23rd minute.
He converted his own try from straight in front of the posts, and as Leinster continued to beat a path back to the Connacht 22, busy hooker O’Hanlon had a score ruled out for a forward pass.
Despite Kelly doing well to defend a bouncing cross-field kick, Connacht conceded the bonus point try just moments later. O’Reilly forced the ball free in contact and flanker Tonge impressively sliced through a gap for Naughton to convert.
Just two minutes into the second half at Dubarry Park, Blackrock College’s Tonge struck again, wriggling over from close range after Finn Treacy’s initial block and pick-up, and Naughton attacking up close to the line.
The extras crisply added by Naughton for 35-0, Connacht’s back-line then began to make inroads, with replacement Blair Norton released into space and putting the hosts in scoring range following a kick chase.
The westerners deservedly got on the scoreboard when scrum half Farthing flicked a superb pass behind him for Galwegians clubman Gavin to break through from the edge of the Leinster 22, and he got around Quinn and showed impressive strength to score despite Tom Larke’s cover tackle.
The conversion from Senan Phelan cut the gap back to 28 points, but further pressure from Leinster yielded more tries with scrum half Brophy diving over having followed up on Luke O’Connor’s excellent charge past two tacklers.
Patrick Flannery’s well-won turnover penalty typified Connacht’s all-round effort, but Leinster continued to find chinks in the hosts’ defence past the hour mark.
Luke Policky was next on the scoresheet, powering over from a few metres out, with fellow replacement Adam Shirley’s big clear-out having opened up the space. Centre Larke tagged on the two points this time.
Leinster’s bench was eager for more and they closed out the scoring with a well-taken maul try, replacement hooker Stephen Smyth getting the grounding with Larke converting to the left of the posts.
CONNACHT U-19: Cody Farrell (Galwegians RFC/St. Paul’s); Sean Fox (Galway Corinthians RFC/Calasanctius College Oranmore), Senan Phelan (St Mary’s/St. Benildus College), Hugh Gavin (Galwegians RFC/Coláiste Iognáid), Cathal Kelly (Ballina RFC/St. Muredach’s College); Ryan Roche (Galwegians RFC/St. Paul’s), Tomas Farthing (Galway Corinthians RFC/Coláiste Creg Mhuire); Sean Hopkins (Ballina RFC/St. Muredach’s College), Oisin Dolan (Buccaneers RFC/Athlone Community College), Charlie Byrne (Buccaneers RFC/Marist College), Bryan Walsh (Galway Corinthians RFC/Coláiste Éinde), Rory Glynn (Galway Corinthians RFC/Cistercian College Roscrea), Blayze Molloy (Ballina RFC/Clongowes Wood College), Patrick Flannery (Galway Corinthians RFC/Colaiste Chroí Mhuire), Max Flynn (Galway Corinthians RFC/Cistercian College Roscrea) (capt).
Replacements: Charlie Leonard (Galway Corinthians RFC/Colaiste Iognaid), John Hughes (Corrib RFC/Yeats College), Dylan Bolger (Buccaneers RFC/Marist College), Paddy Jones (Merchant Taylors’ School), Conor Ryan (Ballinasloe RFC/Garbally College), Joey Tierney (Ballinasloe RFC/Garbally College), Blair Norton (Ballina RFC/St. Muredach’s College), Shane Fitzpatrick (Ballinasloe RFC/Garbally College).
LEINSTER U-19: Hugo McLaughlin (Gonzaga College); Andrew Quinn (Blackrock College), Finn Treacy (Presentation College Bray), Tom Larke (Old Wesley RFC), Jules Fenelon (St. Michael’s College); Sean Naughton (Kilkenny College), Tadhg Brophy (Newbridge College); Keith Farrell (MU Barnhall RFC), Niall O’Hanlon (Athy RFC), Adam Deay (Tullow RFC), James O’Loughlin (Naas RFC), Michael O’Reilly (St. Michael’s College), Luke O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC), Conor Tonge (Blackrock College), Tom Brigg (Blackrock College) (capt).
Replacements: Stephen Smyth (Kilkenny College), Adam Shirley (Kilkenny College), Andrew Sparrow (St. Mary’s College), Luke Policky (St. Mary’s College), Paul Wilson (Gonzaga College), Oliver Coffey (Blackrock College), Luke Kritzinger (Blackrock College), Charlie Sheridan (Naas RFC).
MUNSTER UNDER-19s 19 ULSTER UNDER-19s 15, Musgrave Park (played on Sunday)
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Oisin Pepper, Danny Sheahan, Jack Somers; Cons: Cillian O’Connor 2
Ulster: Tries: Zac Solomon, Ethan Graham; Con: Ben McFarlane; Pen: Ben McFarlane
HT: Munster 12 Ulster 12
Jonathon Graham’s Ulster squad made the trip to Musgrave Park buoyed by last week’s big win over Connacht, but Munster, determined to bounce back to winning ways, started the stronger.
Centre Gordon Wood won a turnover penalty and the Munster maul caused some early damage, while winger Lukas Kenny’s thumping tackle on Sean Edogbo summed up Ulster’s determination on the day.
It was O’Connor’s charges who took the lead in the sixth minute, Cillian O’Connor’s superbly-weighted grubber kick was grounded in the right corner by winger Oisin Pepper as Munster played with a penalty advantage.
The game’s opening try went unconverted and the first 20 minutes were rather stop-start, with both defences coping well with kicks and Ulster ironing out some early lineout and kicking issues.
The visitors drew level courtesy of a powerful rolling maul, the surge coming at just the right time as hooker and captain Zac Solomon crashed over near the left corner.
After Ben McFarlane’s conversion attempt bounced back off the near post, Ulster kept hold of the momentum when Solomon snatched up turnover ball and they gained ground out wide.
Kenny and McFarlane spearheaded a break towards the Munster 22, James Girvan made metres through the middle during a penalty advantage, and then flanker James McKillop dinked a speculative kick over the top.
That might have been the end of the attack, but Graham rose above Pepper to collect the ball and despite Stephen Kiely’s tackle, the Belfast Met winger twisted his way over the line for a brilliant opportunist try.
McFarlane rifled over the touchline conversion, giving Ulster a further boost as they claimed a 12-5 lead. However, some intelligent tactical kicking from Munster allowed them to hit back just before half-time.
With Evan O’Connell a reliable target in securing lineout ball, the home pack built up a head of steam in mauling towards the whitewash. Hooker Danny Sheahan plunged over at the rear, with number 10 O’Connor landing the levelling conversion.
Twelve points apiece at the interval, the rate of handling errors increased on the restart and Ulster were unable to take advantage of a midfield break from RBAI’s Rory Ellerby.
The freshly-introduced Harry Long was a whisker away from a try for Munster, weaving through after a neat first-phase set-up involving Wood and O’Connor, but Graham and a scrambling McFarlane managed to hold him up.
Bryn Ward’s turnover penalty released more pressure as Ulster got away from their own try-line, the next few minutes being nip and tuck until a counter attack saw prop Jacob Boyd carry up to the Munster 22 and draw a high tackle.
Although McFarlane pushed his 55th-minute penalty attempt wide, Munster were now leaking more penalties and Ulster’s maul was becoming more of a weapon as they kicked to the left corner twice.
A considerable spell of pressure, which saw Solomon brought to ground just a few metres out, ended with Munster replacement Long sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, and McFarlane mopped up with the three points.
Back in front at 15-12 with just three minutes remaining, Ulster gave away crucial possession from the restart when O’Connell got the decision at the breakdown, teeing up a late maul opportunity.
A strong Munster drive was brought down illegally, and after hooker Sheahan carried up close from the quick tap, they retained possession, inching closer for Somers (pictured below) to smartly roll to his right and make the line.
A devastated Ulster watched on as O’Connor fired over the conversion and there was no time for a restart, leaving 14-man Munster to celebrate a victory that owed much to their composure during a grandstand finish.
MUNSTER U-19: Ben Lynch (CBC Cork); Oisin Pepper (St. Munchin’s College), Stephen Kiely (Castletroy College), Gordon Wood (St. Munchin’s College), Sean Condon (PBC Cork/UCC); Cillian O’Connor (St. Munchin’s College), Jake O’Riordan (St. Munchin’s College); Max Duggan (Clongowes Wood College), Danny Sheahan (PBC Cork/UCC), Michael Long (Rockwell College), Kamil Nowak (CBC Cork), Evan O’Connell (Castletroy College), Sean Edogbo (Cobh Pirates RFC/UCC), Jacob Sheahan (PBC Cork/UCC) (capt), Brian Gleeson (Rockwell College).
Replacements: Adam Wrona (CBC Cork), Finn Cowhig (PBC Cork/UCC), Rory Doody (Cistercian College Roscrea/Bantry Bay RFC), Adam Sheehan (Skibbereen RFC), Jack Somers (Crescent College Comprehensive), Kyle Read (Midleton RFC), Aaron Quirke (Cobh Pirates RFC), Harry Long (Ardscoil Rís).
ULSTER U-19: Ben McFarlane (Methodist College Belfast); Lukas Kenny (Campbell College Belfast), James Girvan (Royal School Dungannon), Rory Ellerby (Royal Belfast Academical Institution), Ethan Graham (Belfast Metropolitan College); Charlie Beattie (Wallace High School), Clark Logan (Coleraine Grammar School); Jacob Boyd (Royal Belfast Academical Institution); Zac Solomon (Campbell College Belfast) (capt), Flynn Longstaff (Campbell College Belfast), Mark Lee (Rainey Old Boys RFC), Joe Hopes (Campbell College Belfast), James McKillop (Foyle College), Josh Stevens (Methodist College Belfast), Bryn Ward (Royal Belfast Academical Institution).
Replacements: Sam Anderson (Royal School Armagh), Reece Braden (Omagh Academy), Jacob Oliver (Cambridge House), Adam Montgomery (Rainey Endowed School), Cameron Faith (Campbell College Belfast), Johnny McCracken (Campbell College Belfast), Tristan Ferguson (Ballymena Academy), Ben Gibson (Bangor Grammar School).
REMAINING FIXTURES –
Saturday, September 3 –
LEINSTER U-19s v ULSTER U-19s, Energia Park, 3pm
Sunday, September 4 –
MUNSTER U-19s v CONNACHT U-19s, University of Limerick 4G pitch, 3pm
PWC IRFU UNDER-19 MEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – TOP SCORERS:
25 – Ben McFarlane (Ulster)
17 – Sean Naughton (Leinster)
15 – Danny Sheahan (Munster), Zac Solomon (Ulster)
10 – Tadhg Brophy (Leinster), Hugh Gavin (Connacht), Stephen Smyth (Leinster), Conor Tonge (Leinster)
9 – Jack Murphy (Leinster)
5 – Sam Berman (Leinster), Brian Gleeson (Munster), Ethan Graham (Ulster), Lukas Kenny (Ulster), Hugo McLaughlin (Leinster), Blayze Molloy (Connacht), Niall O’Hanlon (Leinster), Jacob Oliver (Ulster), Oisin Pepper (Munster), Luke Policky (Leinster), Jack Somers (Munster), Josh Stevens (Ulster), Bryn Ward (Ulster)
4 – Tom Larke (Leinster), Ben O’Connor (Munster), Cillian O’Connor (Munster), Ryan Roche (Connacht)
2 – Senan Phelan (Connacht)
3 – Danny Sheahan (Munster), Zac Solomon (Ulster)
2 – Tadhg Brophy (Leinster), Hugh Gavin (Connacht), Ben McFarlane (Ulster), Stephen Smyth (Leinster), Conor Tonge (Leinster)
1 – Sam Berman (Leinster), Brian Gleeson (Munster), Ethan Graham (Ulster), Lukas Kenny (Ulster), Hugo McLaughlin (Leinster), Blayze Molloy (Connacht), Jack Murphy (Leinster), Sean Naughton (Leinster), Niall O’Hanlon (Leinster), Jacob Oliver (Ulster), Oisin Pepper (Munster), Luke Policky (Leinster), Jack Somers (Munster), Josh Stevens (Ulster), Bryn Ward (Ulster)