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Ireland Club XV Make Winning Return To International Calendar

Ireland Club XV Make Winning Return To International Calendar

Cork Constitution's Jack Kelleher is pictured scoring the Ireland Club XV's second try against Portugal 'A' in Lisbon ©INPHO/Martin Siras Lima

The Ireland Club XV’s first fixture in four years ended in a well-earned 20-17 win over Portugal ‘A’ in Lisbon, as try scorer Jordan Coghlan and Adam La Grue impressed for Sean Skehan’s new-look team.


Friday, March 8 –

PORTUGAL ‘A’ 17 IRELAND CLUB XV 20, Estádio Universitário de Lisboa
Scorers: Portugal ‘A’: Tries: Jose do Carmo Camara, Francisco Galveias, Alfredo Almeira; Con: Manuel Vareiro
Ireland Club XV: Tries: Jordan Coghlan, Jack Kelleher, Craig Adams, Bobby Sheehan
HT: Portugal ‘A’ 7 Ireland Club XV 10

Having fallen behind to an opportunist Jose do Carmo Camara score, busy back rowers Coghlan and Jack Kelleher hit back with unconverted efforts after 24 and 28 minutes respectively, to give the visitors a 10-7 half-time lead.

The wet and windy conditions proved tricky at times, but slick handling created the best try of the lot for winger Craig Adams, before replacement Bobby Sheehan, younger brother of Leinster and Ireland star Dan, barged over from a 56th-minute maul.

Hooker Sheehan was one of 22 new caps for the Ireland Club international team on the night, as some of the most consistent performers in this season’s Energia All-Ireland League got to test themselves against international opposition.

Captain Nuno Sousa Guedes and scrum half Pedro Lucas were part of Portugal’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, and the hosts whittled the margin down to three points in the end, with Francisco Galveias and Alfredo Almeira both crossing late on.

Still, with limited preparation time together, it was an assured performance from Skehan’s charges, particularly between the start of the second quarter and the hour mark. Captain Harrison Brewer led the team well, and was presented with the trophy afterwards.

The Ireland Club XV (sponsored by Energia) were on the defensive for most of the opening quarter, needing a strong scrum to get out of early trouble. Turnovers won by Luke Clohessy and Dylan Donnellan kept Portugal ‘A’ out of try-scoring range.

The home side threatened in the 11th minute through Lucas, whose clever kick through opened up the Irish back-field. Cathal Eddy got across to cover the danger, and a knock-on ruled out a try for Jose Vilar Gomes.

Despite a Kelleher lineout steal, good work by Boaventura Almeida and Joao Cabaco off the back of a scrappy 16th-minute scrum took Portugal ‘A’ back into the Irish 22. With Sousa Guedes brilliantly jinking past three defenders, the try-line was suddenly in sight.

The Portugal ‘A’ skipper’s attempted offload bounced loose off Alfredo Almeira’s head, and fellow centre do Carmo Camara reacted quickest to touch down the ball down to the right of the posts. The left-footed Manuel Vareiro converted for a 7-0 lead.

In reponse, the Ireland Club XV began to knit together some nice play in attack. Brewer and George Pringle combined neatly in midfield to bring play up to the Portuguese 22, and Terenure College pair La Grue and Adams also gobbled up ground on the counter.

A Brewer charge sparked a strong spell of carrying closer in from the Irish forwards. Hooker Donnellan was held up from a five-metre tap penalty, but there was no stopping Coghlan in the next phase, as he crashed over with support from Kelleher.

After Michael Moloney’s missed conversion, Conor Bartley forced a scrum penalty out of Andre Arrojado. A well-worked lineout maul did the trick, with Donnellan breaking off and feeding the supporting Kelleher to go over in the left corner.

It remained 10-7 to Skehan’s men, with Moloney narrowly missing the difficult conversion on the near side. The Ireland Club team remained on the front foot, aided by Clohessy winning a turnover at the breakdown and Coghlan carrying twice to good effect.

They did exert some pressure near the Portuguese line nearing the interval. Moloney got every inch out of a penalty kick to the corner, but a Donnellan-controlled maul was halted short, and then centre Peter Sylvester was held up at close range.

The men in green opened the second period in terrific fashion, scoring inside 70 seconds. Full-back La Grue provided the attacking zip with two purposeful runs, and Conor Kelly’s nicely-weighted pass put Eddy through a gap and he fed Adams to cross in the left corner.

Credit to Bartley and Brewer for their carries to suck in defenders during the build-up to the try. With the blustery wind adding to the difficulty, Moloney’s conversion attempt fell wide, leaving it 15-7.

Despite losing a scrum against the head, Portugal ‘A’ regrouped and got their attack firing again despite the greasy ball. Winger Galveias got a chance to stretch his legs down the left touchline, but the tricky Sousa Gomes was turned over by Campbell Classon near the Irish posts.

Lucas’ dink over the top almost released Galveias for the whitewash soon after, but Adams came up trumps with a try-saving tackle. The newly-introduced Sheehan then forced a knock-on from Lucas at the ruck.

Coghlan carried hard and also showed soft hands to send replacement Bradley Luney breaking back up towards halfway. With Portugal ‘A’ caught offside, they were unable to stop another powerful Irish drive which saw Sheehan pile over in swift fashion.

Portugal ‘A’ had a prolonged attacking spell, either side of the hour mark, and despite a lung-busting break from deep by La Grue, the Ireland Club XV could not add to their lead.

Adams was tackled a few metres short in the 69th minute, following good work by replacement Rhys O’Donnell and La Grue. The Irish bench had been emptied at that stage, with eight more Club international debutants getting a run-out.

Brewer foiled one Portuguese break with a turnover penalty, but the hosts finished strongly. A sharp backs move put Galveias over, before Francisco Perloiro caught a Sousa Guedes kick and offloaded off the ground to send Almeira speeding over from 40 metres out.

TIME LINE: 17 minutes – Portugal ‘A’ try: Jose do Carmo Camara – 5-0; conversion: Manuel Vareiro – 7-0; 24 mins – Ireland Club XV try: Jordan Coghlan – 7-5; conversion: missed by Michael Moloney – 7-5; 28 mins – Ireland Club XV try: Jack Kelleher – 7-10; conversion: missed by Michael Moloney – 7-10; Half-time – Portugal ‘A’ 7 Ireland Club XV 10; 42 mins – Ireland Club XV try: Craig Adams – 7-15; conversion: missed by Michael Moloney – 7-15; 56 mins – Ireland Club XV try: Bobby Sheehan – 7-20; conversion: missed by Conor Kelly – 7-20; 78 mins – Portugal ‘A’ try: Francisco Galveias – 12-20; conversion: missed by Manuel Vareiro – 12-20; 80+1 mins – Portugal ‘A’ try: Alfredo Almeira – 17-20; conversion: missed by Manuel Vareiro – 17-20; Full-time – Portugal ‘A’ 17 Ireland Club XV 20

PORTUGAL ‘A’: Nuno Sousa Guedes (capt); Jose Vilar Gomes, Jose do Carmo Camara, Alfredo Almeira, Francisco Galveias; Manuel Vareiro, Pedro Lucas; Andre Arrojado, Santiago Lopes, Antonio Prim, Nicolas Fernandes, Francisco Almeida, Joao Cabaco, Andre Cunha, Boaventura Almeida.

Replacements: Antonio Peixoto, Luis Lopes, Jose Lavos, Guilherme Costa, Luis Moreira, Fabien Silva, Duarte Cardoso, Francisco Perloiro.

IRELAND CLUB XV: Adam La Grue (Terenure College); Craig Adams (Terenure College), George Pringle (Ballynahinch), Peter Sylvester (Terenure College), Cathal Eddy (Lansdowne); Conor Kelly (Clontarf), Michael Moloney (UCD); Campbell Classon (Terenure College), Dylan Donnellan (Clontarf), Conor Bartley (Young Munster), Harrison Brewer (Terenure College) (capt), Fionn Gilbert (Clontarf), Jack Kelleher (Cork Constitution), Luke Clohessy (Terenure College), Jordan Coghlan (Terenure College).

Replacements used: Bobby Sheehan (UCD) for Donnellan, Alan Kennedy (Young Munster) for Kelleher, Bradley Luney (Ballynahinch) for Clohessy, Rhys O’Donnell (Instonians) for Moloney, Mark Best (Ballynahinch) for Sylvester (all 51 mins), David Begley (Young Munster) for Classon, Cronan Gleeson (Old Wesley) for Bartley, Conor Hayes (St. Mary’s College) for Eddy (all 58), Aran Egan (Terenure College) for Kelly, Diarmuid McCormack (Dublin University) for Coghlan (both 67), Coghlan for Brewer (74).

Referee: Keane Davison (IRFU)