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Ireland Under-19s Take Lessons From Testing Easter Series

Ireland Under-19s Take Lessons From Testing Easter Series

Hooker Stephen Smyth carries the ball forward for the Ireland Under-19s against France in Cahors ©INPHO/Manuel Blondeau

The Ireland Under-19s (sponsored by PwC) produced a much-improved performance, scoring four tries in a 52-26 defeat to France in front of a partisan Cahors crowd on Wednesday.


Wednesday, April 12 –

FRANCE U-20 DEVELOPMENT XV 52 IRELAND UNDER-19s 26, Stade Lucien Desprats, Cahors
Scorers: France: Tries: Loan Lavergne 2, Hoani Bosmorin, Maxence Biasotto, Léon Darricarrère, Louis Morland 2, Oliver Cowie; Cons: Tom Raffy 6
Ireland: Tries: Josh Stevens, Flynn Longstaff 2, Hugo McLaughlin; Cons: Sean McNaughton 2, Jack Murphy
HT: France 17 Ireland 19

Mark Butler’s charges went into the lion’s den, taking on a highly-rated France Under-20 Development team over two games and getting an opportunity to play elite opposition in hostile environments.

Bouncing back from last Saturday’s 52-7 reversal in Graulhet, the Ireland Under-19s showed the benefit of more training time under their belts to edge into a 19-17 lead on the stroke of half-time.

Ulster duo Josh Stevens and Flynn Longstaff (2) shared out the tries as the visitors’ strong set-piece play reaped rewards, while France’s back-line carried the greater threat.

The French managed to pushed clear with a superior second half display, adding a flattering gloss with two late tries after Gonzaga College’s Hugo McLaughlin had gone over for the visitors’ fourth of the night.

Despite the disappointing results, this has been a hugely beneficial trip for these Irish players on their development pathway as the majority of them move forward into the Under-20 grade.

For some, like captain Evan O’Connell and Joe Hopes, this summer’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship is the next target. But for the younger players in Butler’s travelling party, they have solid foundations to build on for next season.

They must also be mindful that their 2018 and 2022 predecessors at U-19 level lost by similar margins to France before both gaining revenge in the following year’s Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

An early obstruction penalty at a French maul allowed Ireland to strike for the opening score from six metres out. O’Connell took down Stephen Smyth’s third-minute lineout throw and an immediate surge led to Methodist College flanker Stevens crashing over.

Sean Naughton was narrowly wide with the difficult conversion, but an excellent touchfinder from the out-half, allied to his Kilkenny College colleague Smyth’s rip in a tackle, offered further encouragement to the visitors.

Nonetheless, France opened up the Irish defence with Tom Raffy’s sidestepping run before Noah Zinzen’s offload out a tackle put fellow back rower Loan Lavergne in under the posts. Raffy converted for a 7-5 lead.

Ben O’Connor gathered his own chip kick and linked neatly with James O’Loughlin in response, yet France were clinical again from their next visit to the Irish 22. Lavergne doubled his tally despite Stephen Kiely’s best efforts to hold him up.

Impressive hooker Smyth put Ireland back on the front foot, collecting his kick over the top after a loose French lineout. A scrum penalty put them back into the right corner and although the maul was stopped short, prop Longstaff expertly burrowed over.

Naughton’s well-struck conversion had the sides briefly level at 12-all, with France answering back quickly thanks to winger Hoani Bosmorin’s skilful finish from a Raffy cross-field kick.

Full-back O’Connor then rose brilliantly to claim a Naughton garryowen, setting up a late attacking spell. French indiscipline led to hooker Barnabé Massa’s yellow card for a slap-down at a ruck and Ireland took advantage.

The maul did not work out on this occasion, but off a subsequent close-in scrum, Wilhelm de Klerk and Stevens both carried strongly before Campbell College’s Longstaff rumbled over for Naughton to kick Butler’s side ahead.

Crucially, a well-taken try from centre Maxence Biasotto – inside a minute of the restart – saw the French outfit seize the initiative. Raffy, who had a key pass during the build-up, added the extras for a 24-19 scoreline.

Despite a fine kick and follow-up from O’Connor, Ireland were beginning to make more mistakes in general play. The French backs clicked with ball in hand and big centre Léon Darricarrère muscled in under the posts despite the cover defence.

With 20 minutes remaining, les Bleuets were now 31-19 to the good and, following a penalty for offside, Darricarrère turned provider to put replacement Louis Morland over with Ireland’s defence in the back-line giving way.

The visitors’ bench sparked a purple patch, as a series of penalties landed France back into their own 22. Replacement forwards Zac Solomon, Tom O’Riordan and Michael Colreavy all went close from carries off a lineout.

Following a prolonged forwards-dominated spell, crisp passes from newly-introduced half-backs Jake O’Riordan and Jake Murphy released McLaughlin to dive over untouched in the right corner.

Although Murphy was bang on target with the touchline conversion, Raffy’s inside pass put Morland over for France’s seventh try. There was still time for Oliver Cowie to capitalise on a favourable bounce for a 40-metre run-in.

FRANCE U-20 DEVELOPMENT: Théo Attissogbe (Section Paloise); Gabin Rocher (Montpellier HR), Maxence Biasotto (CA Brive), Léon Darricarrère (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Hoani Bosmorin (Stade Rochelais); Tom Raffy (CA Brive), Lucas Zamora (Stade Rochelais) (capt); Lino Julien (Racing 92), Barnabé Massa (FC Grenoble), Thomas Duchêne (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Charly Gambini (Provence Rugby), Hugo Descube (Stade Toulousain), Noah Zinzen (Racing 92), Joé Quere Karaba (RC Toulon), Loan Lavergne (CA Brive).

Replacements: Léo Ametlla (RC Toulon), Jules Veyrier (Montpellier HR), Ateli Tuisamoa (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Simon Huchet (Stade Rochelais), Maël Perrin (Montpellier HR), Andy Timo (RC Massy), Paul Dumas (Lyon OU), Axel Desperes (Section Paloise), Louis Morland (RC Toulon), Oliver Cowie (RC Toulon), Grégoire Arfeuil (Section Paloise).

IRELAND U-19: Ben O’Connor (Presentation College Cork/Munster); Stephen Kiely (Old Crescent RFC/Munster), Sam Berman (Dublin University FC/Leinster), Wilhelm de Klerk (St. Michael’s College/Leinster), Hugo McLaughlin (Gonzaga College/Leinster); Sean Naughton (Kilkenny College/Leinster), Tadhg Brophy (Newbridge College/Leinster); Jacob Boyd (RBAI/Ulster), Stephen Smyth (Kilkenny College/Leinster), Flynn Longstaff (Campbell College/Ulster), James O’Loughlin (Naas RFC/Leinster), Evan O’Connell (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) (capt), Joe Hopes (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster), Josh Stevens (Methodist College/Ulster), Bryn Ward (RBAI/Ulster).

Replacements: Zac Solomon (Belfast Harlequins RFC/Ulster), Tom O’Riordan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Adam Deay (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), Michael Colreavy (Blackrock College/Leinster), Jacob Sheahan (UCC RFC/Munster), Jake O’Riordan (St. Munchin’s College/Munster), Jack Murphy (Presentation College Bray/Leinster), Luke Kritzinger (Blackrock College/Leinster), Lukas Kenny (Campbell College/Ulster), Ben McFarlane (Methodist College/Ulster), Oliver Coffey (Blackrock College/Leinster).