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Defeat For Ireland Wolfhounds In Exeter

Defeat For Ireland Wolfhounds In Exeter

Tries from David Kearney, Tomas O’Leary and Simon Zebo were not enough to prevent the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds from slipping to a 23-17 defeat at the hands of England Saxons at Sandy Park.

It was a reversal of the result at Ravenhill twelve months ago when the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds carved out a 20-11 win over the English outfit.

In Exeter, a strong series of scrums helped the Saxons gain the early initiative and a try from debutant scrum half Ben Spencer set them on their way to a deserved victory.

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The Wolfhounds had their moments and a number of players can take credit from their personal displays, including try scorer David Kearney as well as Rhys Ruddock and his back row colleagues.

Out-half Freddie Burns opened the scoring with a seventh minute penalty, won by Ugo Monye who was well-positioned when competing for a ruck ball.

Matt Mullan, George Robson and Thomas Waldrom all stood out in the English pack as their solid set pieces helped them build an early lead.

Burns went for touch and after a powerful lineout maul, the Wolfhounds’ defence gave way when Paul Doran-Jones broke away and the nippy Spencer took advantage of some illegal blocking to touch down by the posts. Burns’ conversion made it 10-0.

Referee Cedric Marchat failed to spot Robson holding back Isaac Boss as Spencer slipped through around the fringes, scoring from close range.

The Wolfhounds clicked into gear on the quarter hour mark, with Boss’ half-back partner Ian Keatley gliding through a gap and passing for debutant Simon Zebo.

The Munster winger had support on his inside shoulder, but was clobbered into touch by Matt Banahan’s ‘no arms’ challenge which should have been punished by the referee.

Eric Elwood’s men were quickly back on the attack, the forwards grafting away and gaining ground with a good 24th minute maul before Eoin O’Malley’s clever movement and inside pass put Kearney over for a well-taken try.

The conversion was missed and 10-5 is how it stayed for half-time, the only other scoring chance being a late penalty which Burns failed to land.

The Wolfhounds, with Brett Wilkinson, Mike McCarthy and Dan Tuohy showing well up front, enjoyed one of their best spells at the start of the second half. A superb take and counter attack from the impressive Kearney launched them forward again.

Ruddock, John Muldoon and Zebo kept the move going as the men in green burst into the Saxons’ half, but it was the home side who struck for the first points after the break.

Their next score had a touch of good fortune about it as Burns’ kick through bounced off Nevin Spence and fell kindly for the strong-running Waldrom to notch the second English try, with the extras soon added for a 17-5 scoreline.

The Wolfhounds bench was unloaded over the remaining half hour, with Boss and Keatley making way for Tomas O’Leary and Ian Madigan at half-back respectively.

Denis Hurley also came on for Gavin Duffy in the back-line and Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin and Ronan Loughney were the fresh legs up front.

With an hour on the clock, O’Leary made an impact by scampering over for a lovely score having broken from the base of a ruck and got past Doran-Jones. Madigan was successful with the conversion and the gap was down to five points.

Burns watched another penalty attempt slide away to the right and wide and Kearney raced across from his wing to deny Monye as the pair chased down Delon Armitage’s kick into the Irish 22.

However, the Saxons pushed themselves into a match-winning lead as Burns sent over his second and third successful penalties of the evening and time was not on the Wolfhounds’ side.

Despite the win now being beyond their reach, Elwood’s charges did manage to have to the final say in injury-time as the in-form Zebo crossed out wide on the left for an unconverted try.

ENGLAND SAXONS: Delon Armitage (London Irish); Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Matt Hopper (Harlequins), Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers), Matt Banahan (Bath), Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Ben Spencer (Saracens); Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Matt Garvey (London Irish), George Robson (Harlequins), James Gaskell (Sale Sharks) (capt), Andy Saull (Saracens), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers).

Replacements used: Kearnan Myall (Sale Sharks) for Garvey (46 mins), Jonny May (Gloucester) for Banahan, Chris Brooker (Harlequins) for Gray (both 60), Paul Hodgson (London Irish) for Spencer (67), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs) for Saull (72). Not used: Rupert Harden (Gloucester), Ryan Lamb (Northampton Saints).

O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht); David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster), Eoin O’Malley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster); Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster); Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht), Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster), Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster) (capt), Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster).

Replacements used: Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Keatley, Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster) for Boss (both 52 mins), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster) for Duffy (55), Ronan Loughney (Galwegians/Connacht) for Wilkinson (60), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) for McCarthy (63), Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster) for Varley, Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) for Muldoon (both 67).

Referee: Cedric Marchat (France)