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Ireland ‘A’ Leave It Late Against Canada

Ireland ‘A’ Leave It Late Against Canada

Ireland ‘A’ were made to work hard for their opening win at the 2009 Churchill Cup in stormy Colorado. Canada really put it up to them, leading by 19-16 with 11 minutes left, but a penalty try and a 79th minute effort from Denis Fogarty saw the Declan Kidney-coached Irish side pull through.

2009 CHURCHILL CUP – POOL A: Wednesday, June 10

IRELAND ‘A’ 30 CANADA 19, Infinity Park, Glendale, Colorado

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Scorers: Ireland ‘A’: Tries: Denis Hurley, Fergus McFadden, Penalty try, Denis Fogarty; Cons: Jonathan Sexton 2; Pens: Niall O’Connor 2
Canada: Try: Phil Mack; Con: Ander Monro; Pens: Ander Monro 3; Drop: Ander Monro

The Match – As It Happened

In only their second game of the season, Ireland ‘A’ overcame a gritty challenge from an in-form Canada side to get their 2009 Churchill Cup campaign off to a winning start.

Early tries from Denis Hurley and Fergus McFadden showed the potency in an Irish back-line which boasted only two senior-capped players in full-back Hurley and captain for the day Isaac Boss.

But an off-day with the boot for out-half Niall O’Connor and an obvious rustiness – with some of the Ireland ‘A’ players not having played since mid-May – helped Canada twice come from behind to take a 16-13 half-time lead.

Their out-half Ander Monro had a big influence. The former Edinburgh clubman knocked over two penalties and then led a superb counter attack which ended with his half-back partner Phil Mack’s 24th minute try.

Monro increased his influence with a drop goal for the lead score before half-time. In wet and stormy conditions, his penalty on the hour mark have Kieran Crowley’s side within reach of a shock win.

Canada showed real quality on Saturday in their 42-10 win over Georgia, the other team in Pool A, and they gave Ireland ‘A’ a serious test here.

In the end though, the strength of the Irish pack came to the fore, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien and Chris Henry were particulary effective and out wide both Hurley and Johne Murphy gained crucial yards.

The powerful Irish eight earned a penalty try off a collapsed scrum and then replacement hooker Denis Fogarty sealed the hard-earned victory by plunging over from a close range ruck, gaining Ireland ‘A’ a bonus point.

This was the second Churchill Cup encounter between Ireland ‘A’ and Canada. The sides met in Exeter at the 2007 tournament, with the Irish running in six tries for a 39-20 victory.

McFadden, Jonathan Sexton, John Muldoon and Sean Cronin were the only survivors from that game included in the matchday squad to face Canada’s class of 2009.

Ireland ‘A’ got off to a business-like start at Infinity Park, setting up an early attacking platform from a well-worked lineout maul on the right.

Worming their way over the Canadian 22, the forwards handed the ball on a plate to Boss and two swift passes out to the left from O’Connor and Keith Matthews putting Hurley diving in at the corner for the opening try.

Hurley had two defenders to beat but with Johne Murphy helping to keep his team-mate in play, wide out on the left, the Canadian line was breached.

O’Connor missed the difficult conversion and a handling error in midfield allowed the Canadians charge towards the Irish 22.

Ireland ‘A’ were pinged for a ruck offence and Monro fired over his first penalty, following up on a kick chase launched by Ciaran Hearn.

The physicality stakes were ramped up when Neil Best caught Monro with a late tackle and the Canadian number 10 mustered the best possible response by landing the resulting penalty for a 6-5 scoreline.

However, Ireland ‘A’ soon let their rugby do the talking and they wasted little time in retaking the lead.

On 13 minutes, they struck off a training ground move with McFadden making use of some decoy runners to weave his way into the 22, taking a great line before beating full-back Matt Evans on his left to dot down to the right of the posts.

It was a very well-executed move, which must have pleased watching backs coach Alan Gaffney. O’Connor, though, was off target with the conversion and Canada crucially grabbed the next score.

Playing at altitude and with the ball travelling further, both sides were guilty of overcooking their kicks at times but Ireland ‘A’ were lording it at set piece time.

Canada had plenty of problems in the lineout, the biggest of them being Leinster giant Devin Toner who produced a lovely lineout steal on 20 minutes and trampled his way past Phil Mack on a destructive run.

Hurley looked dangerous running support lines from deep. On one such occasion, a knock on prevented him from bursting through the middle with the Canadian defence caught flatfooted.

Fionn Carr, coming in off his right wing, was also hungry from work and helped keep Ireland ‘A’ on the front foot.

But Ireland ‘A’ could not build on those initial tries and Canada, helped by their recent run of Tests against Ireland, Wales and Georgia, gave as good as they got.

Tempers flared in midfield with Best and Mack tangling with each other and a number of players piling in. Referee Matt Goddard quickly sorted things out, although that physical intensity remained.

And Ireland ‘A’ were soon behind their posts after Mack dummied and stretched over from close range for the Canucks’ only try of the game.

Hurley was ruled to have knocked the ball on as he attempted to gather a garryowen near halfway, and Canada countered immediately with Monro darting forward into space.

With the Irish scrambling back, Monro was able to link with James Pritchard who passed back inside for full-back Evans to canter through and bring play up to five metres from the Irish line.

After a couple of recycles, Mack managed to squeeze his way past his opposite number Boss and register a try which Monro converted for a 13-10 lead.

Four minutes later, O’Connor hit back for Ireland ‘A’ with a confidence-boosting penalty and Ireland ‘A’ pressed on for a try with winger Murphy making a superb, side-stepping break which included a hand-off on Canadian flanker Kleeberger.

Canada’s defence was resolute and they kept the Irish at bay, including some good work at two late scrums five metres from their line.

Their captain Pat Riordan was guilty of a high tackle on the advancing Matthews on 34 minutes. O’Connor missed the resulting kick and it was left to Monro, who bagged a fine drop goal off the next phase of play, to nudge his side in front for the break.

Thunder crackled above as the second half started and Ireland ‘A’ made immediate in-roads, putting pressure on at scrum time to force a penalty which O’Connor dispatched through the posts for 16-16.

The rain was soon pelting down, making ball-handling particularly tricky and the noise of the thunder above made for a slightly surreal atmosphere.

Conditions improved though for the final quarter, with the appearance of the sun coinciding neatly with Ireland ‘A’ foraging ahead.

Before that, Canada went close to scoring a second try. Coming up to the hour, Ireland ‘A’ needed to be on their toes to bring down big centre DTH van der Merwe with the try-line in his sights.

Ireland ‘A’ put pressure on at the ensuing ruck, showing good aggression, and they forced a relieving turnover.

Replacement Ed Fairhurst’s excellent take from a garryowen helped to tee up another penalty chance for Monro which he duly converted, moving Canada back in front at 19-16.

A trademark leg-pumping burst forward from flanker O’Brien, who was held up over the try-line in the first half, got Ireland ‘A’ back within scoring range.

With the rain still falling heavily, an off-colour O’Connor scraped a penalty kick wide of the target from 45 metres.

The young Ulsterman was replaced soon after, with Jonathan Sexton entering the fray. He joined his fellow replacement Frank Murphy at half-back.

The pair quickly got Ireland ‘A’ back on the attack. Best, Donnacha Ryan and Henry, attacking well off the base of the scrum, all carried forward with great intent as Canada began to tire slightly with this their second game in five days.

 A cross-field kick from Sexton to Johne Murphy gave the Leicester clubman a sniff of a chance but the Canadian cover got across quickly to shore up the space.

Tony Buckley smashed his way forward as the Irish camped in the Canadian 22. A knock-on brought the move to a close but off the ensuing scrum, a good hit from Ireland ‘A’ sent Canada backwards and Best was quickly up to bundle Jebb Sinclair backwards and over the try-line.

Just a minute later, Ireland ‘A’ were celebrating a penalty try. Another solid shove saw the Irish forwards trundle forward from five metres out and with Henry controlling the ball at the base, the big Ulsterman tried to lung forward for the score.

His efforts were in vain though as the match officials quickly communicated together and the referee made his way towards the posts to award a penalty try.

Sexton tapped over the simple conversion for a 23-19 Irish advantage and making full use of the bench, Declan Kidney’s men motored on to claim the bonus point try.

Johne Murphy and Hurley impressed again in attacking situations before two good touch-finders from Sexton put pressure on the Canadian lineout. They cough up a penalty but Sexton flung his effort to the right of the posts.

However, Ireland ‘A’ were able to have the final say. With two minutes left, Johne Murphy was well-positioned to gather a Canadian fumble and dart towards the try-line.

He was hauled down in the 22 but the Irish pack, which included tour captain John Muldoon at this stage, settled things down for a couple of drives at the line.

Best, Buckley and Muldoon all went close before replacement hooker Fogarty dipped low past Adam Kleeberger’s challenge and crashed over the line for a well-taken try.

Sexton converted and Trevor Hogan and James Downey both got late run-outs as Ireland ‘A’ took the spoils ahead of their second and final pool match against Georgia on Sunday (kick-off 3.30pm local time/10.30pm Irish time).

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Ireland ‘A’ try: Denis Hurley – 5-0; conversion: missed by Niall O’Connor – 5-0; 6 mins – Canada penalty: Ander Monro – 5-3; 10 mins – Canada penalty: Ander Monro – 5-6; 13 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Fergus McFadden – 10-6; conversion: missed by Niall O’Connor – 10-6; 24 mins – Canada try: Phil Mack – 10-11; conversion: Ander Monro – 10-13; 28 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Niall O’Connor – 13-13; 34 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: missed by Niall O’Connor – 13-13; 35 mins – Canada drop goal: Ander Monro – 13-16; Half-time – Ireland ‘A’ 13 Canada 16; 43 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Niall O’Connor – 16-16; 61 mins – Canada penalty: Ander Monro – 16-19; 63 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: missed by Niall O’Connor – 16-19; 69 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Penalty try – 21-19; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 23-19; 77 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 23-19; 79 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Denis Fogarty – 28-19; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 30-19; Full-time – Ireland ‘A’ 30 Canada 19

IRELAND ‘A’: Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster); Fionn Carr (Galwegians/Connacht), Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster), Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht), Johne Murphy (Leicester Tigers); Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster) (capt); Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster), Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Neil Best (Northampton Saints), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster).

Replacements used: Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) for Young (57 mins), Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution/Munster) for Cronin, Frank Murphy (Buccaneers/Connacht) for Carr (both 62), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) for O’Connor (64), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht) for O’Brien (72), Trevor Hogan (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Ryan, James Downey (Northampton Saints) for Matthews (both 80).

CANADA: Matt Evans (Hartpury College); Justin Mensah-Coker (Moseley RFC), Ciaran Hearn (Castaway Wanderers), DTH van der Merwe (Glasgow Warriors), James Pritchard (Bedford Blues); Ander Monro (Colorno), Phil Mack (James Bay AA); Dan Pletch (Niagara Thunder), Pat Riordan (University of Victoria) (capt), Andrew Tiedemann (University of Victoria), Tyler Hotson (UBC Old Boy Ravens), Mike Burak (Unattached), Nanyak Dala (Castaway Wanderers), Adam Kleeberger (University of Victoria), Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins/Coventry).

Replacements used: Ed Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates) for Mack, Frank Walsh (Dogs RFC) for Pletch, Doug Wooldridge (Cowichan RFC) for Tiedemann (all half-time), Jebb Sinclair (Castaway Wanderers) for Dala (49 mins), Mike Pletch (Velox Valhallians) for Walsh (56, blood sub), Sean Duke (University of Victoria) for Pritchard (74). Not used: John Moonlight (University of Victoria).

Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)