Jump to main content


PWC logo

Ireland U-20s Begin Warm-Up Run With Five-Try Win Over Italy

Ireland U-20s Begin Warm-Up Run With Five-Try Win Over Italy

Number 8 Bryn Ward touches down to score the Ireland Under-20s' second try against Italy at the UCD Bowl ©INPHO/Ben Brady

The Ireland Under-20s’ impressive first half performance proved to be enough to earn a hard-fought 35-29 win over Italy in today’s challenge match at the UCD Bowl.

UNDER-20 CHALLENGE MATCH: Friday, December 15

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Finn Treacy, Bryn Ward, Wilhelm de Klerk, Hugh Gavin, Ethan Graham; Cons: Jack Murphy 5
Italy: Tries: Lorenzo Casilio, Piero Gritti, Jacopo Botturi, Marco Scalabrin; Cons: Martino Pucciariello 2, Giovanni Cinquegrani; Pen: Martino Pucciariello
HT: Ireland 35 Italy 17

Wingers Finn Treacy and Ethan Graham were amongst the try scorers for the Ireland U-20s (sponsored by PwC). Centres Hugh Gavin and Wilhelm de Klerk also touched down, and number 8 Bryn Ward was the only forward to cross the whitewash.

The Italians, who trailed 35-17 at half-time, put in a valiant effort, winning the second half battle. There was a try apiece from Lorenzo Casilio, Piero Gritti, captain Jacopo Botturi, and Marco Scalabrin.

Richie Murphy’s mostly new-look squad can take a lot of positives out of their first outing together, but there are also areas to improve on heading into their post-Christmas warm-up matches against the Munster and Leinster Development teams.

Following a series of camps at the IRFU High Performance Centre, Murphy brought together a squad of 26 players to take on their Italian counterparts as preparations step up for the fast-approaching 2024 Under-20 Six Nations campaign.

Four players who featured in last season’s Grand Slam success and the World Championship silver medal-winning run were part of today’s starting XV – hooker Danny Sheahan, Evan O’Connell in the second row, recent Ulster debutant Joe Hopes at blindside flanker, and the aforementioned Gavin, the team captain, in midfield.

Many of the other players, including Clontarf out-half Jack Murphy who landed all five conversions, have gained valuable experience playing in the Energia All-Ireland League this season with their respective clubs.

Conditions in Belfield were perfect for a game of free-flowing rugby, and Italian out-half Martino Pucciariello split the posts with a quick-fire penalty to open their account.

Ireland had joy at the maul early on. Going for the corner from a penalty, they used the likes of Hopes to make the first-up carries, before Murphy spread the ball wide for his former Pres Bray school-mate, Treacy, to grab the first try out wide. Murphy added the extras.

The hosts extended their lead in the 13th minute, a powerful O’Connell carry giving them go-forward ball before a break through the middle by de Klerk got them motoring inside opposition territory. They were efficient inside the red zone with Ward scoring from close range.

Old Wesley full-back Tom Larke and Connacht prospect Gavin were instrumental in the build-up to Ireland’s third try. The influential de Klerk, playing in familiar surroundings as a regular UCD starter, was the man to put himself on the scoresheet on that occasion.

The visitors reduced the defect in the 25th minute. Scrum half Casilio found himself behind a well-oiled rolling maul before he decided to go himself and snipe over for the a converted try.

During the opening 40 minutes, Ireland’s back-line was working well in sync, with some clever running lines from de Klerk in particular. The strong-running Gavin notched their fourth try before the half hour mark, leaving it 28-10 on the scoreboard.

The dancing feet of out-half Pucciariello created the space for Clermont Auvergne’s Gritti to strike back for the Azzurrini. Pucciariello was also successful with the conversion.

It was the reigning Grand Slam champions who had the final say before the interval. O’Connell made another dominant carry before the in-tune back-line put Ballynahinch’s Graham away for his try in the left corner. Murphy was inch-perfect from the tee to make it 35-17.

The second half was not as fast-paced as the first, with both coaches making a whole host of changes. There were some stop-start passages of play and the hosts decided to kick more through the boot of out-half Murphy.

Italy had the upper-hand at scrum time, winning multiple penalties at the set piece. With five consecutive close-in scrums, a penalty try seemed imminent before number 8 Botturi broke off the back to muscle his way over the line.

Replacement Giovanni Cinquegrani made sure of the conversion, and Ireland’s starting loosehead prop, Clontarf’s Alex Usanov, was given a yellow card during this period.

There were scrums, scrums and more scrums during the final 10 minutes. The visitors continued to remain in charge of the scrums, landing IQ Rugby recruit Patreece Bell in the bin during the dying embers. It provided the platform for Italy’s last try, with winger Scalabrin finishing off the attack.

The Ireland U-20s continue their warm-up fixtures against the Munster Development team at Musgrave Park on Friday, December 29 (kick-off 1pm), before facing the Leinster Development side at Energia Park the following Friday (kick-off 2pm).

Murphy’s charges kick off the U-20 Six Nations against France in Aix-en-Provence on Saturday, February 3. Their opening home match of the Championship is against Italy at Musgrave Park the following Friday. Tickets for the three Ireland U-20 home games are now on sale on Ticketmaster.ie.

IRELAND U-20: Tom Larke (Old Wesley RFC/Leinster); Finn Treacy (Galwegians RFC/Connacht), Hugh Gavin (Galwegians RFC/Connacht), Wilhelm de Klerk (UCD RFC/Leinster), Ethan Graham (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster); Jack Murphy (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Oliver Coffey (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster); Alex Usanov (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Danny Sheahan (Cork Constitution FC/Munster), Andrew Sparrow (UCD RFC/Leinster), Mikey O’Reilly (Terenure College RFC/Leinster), Evan O’Connell (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Joe Hopes (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster), Max Flynn (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Bryn Ward (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster).

Replacements: Stephen Smyth (Old Wesley RFC/Leinster), Jacob Boyd (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster), Flynn Longstaff (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster), Billy Corrigan (Old Wesley RFC/Leinster), Sean Edogbo (UCC RFC/Munster), Will Wootton (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby), Sean Naughton (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Jules Fenelon (Dublin University FC/Leinster), Patreece Bell (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby), Richard Whelan (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Luke Kritzinger (UCD RFC/Leinster).

ITALY U-20: Mirko Belloni (Verona Rugby); Marco Scalabrin (Rugby Vicenza), Lorenzo Elettri (Rugby Rovigo Delta), Lorenzo Nanni (Rugby Oyonnax), Francesco Bini (Rugby Rovigo Delta); Martino Pucciariello (CUS Milano Rugby), Lorenzo Casilio (Rugby Vicenza); Federico Pisani (Verona Rugby), Valerio Siciliano (CA Brive Rugby), Davide Ascari (Rugby Colorno 1975), Tommaso Redondi (Verona Rugby), Piero Gritti (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Luca Bellucci (Rugby Roma Olimpic), Cesare Zucconi (Cavalieri U.R. Prato Sesto), Jacopo Botturi (Petrarca Rugby) (capt).

Replacements: Vittorio Padoan (Mogliano Veneto Rugby), Nicholas Gasperini (Rugby Viadana 1970), Sergio Pellicioli (Rugby Lyons), Marcos Gallorini (Mogliano Veneto Rugby), Andrea Toninelli (Rugby Parabiago), Mattia Jimenez (Petrarca Rugby), Giovanni Cinquegrani (Rugby Paese), Patrick De Villiers (Rugby Noceto FC), Olmo D’Alessandro (Biarritz Olympique), Luca Belloni (Verona Rugby), Francesco Imberti (CUS Torino).

Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)