Ireland ‘A’ rounded off their 2008 Barclays Churchill Cup campaign in Chicago on Saturday night by winning the tournament’s Plate title for the third year running.
2008 BARCLAYS CHURCHILL CUP – PLATE FINAL: Saturday, June 21
IRELAND ‘A’ 33 ARGENTINA ‘A’ 8, Toyota Park, Chicago
Scorers: Ireland ‘A’: Tries: Denis Fogarty, Darren Cave, Jonathan Sexton, Ian Keatley; Cons: Jonathan Sexton 2; Pens: Jonathan Sexton 2; Drop: Jonathan Sexton
Argentina ‘A’: Try: Gabriele Ascarate; Pen: Ignacio Mieres
Shooting out into a 21-0 half-time lead, Ireland ‘A’ confidently dispatched Argentina ‘A’ to claim the Plate title at the 2008 Barclays Churchill Cup.
Leinster out-half Jonathan Sexton led the way for Allen Clarke’s men – he grabbed a full house of points, 18 in all thanks to a try, two conversions, two penalties and a drop goal.
A penalty opened the Irish account in the fourth-minute, with Sexton slotting the 18-metre effort easily from a central position.
A rolling maul saw hooker Denis Fogarty pile over the Argentinian line in the 8th-minute, giving the ‘A’ team their first try of the match, though Sexton missed the difficult conversion to leave the score at 8-0.
The Irish then hit a static period, finding it hard to penetrate a stubborn Argentinian defence, but Sexton, noticing an opportunity, slotted an excellent drop goal from 38 metres to further increase his team’s lead after 31 minutes.
Argentina ‘A’ gave away a penalty for going off their feet at a ruck, two minutes later, offering Sexton an easy shot at goal and Ireland ‘A’ a 14-0 lead heading towards the break.
A sustained period of pressure, coming from a series of Irish rucks out on the right, ended with a string of passes out to the left where Mark McCrea offloaded for his Ulster team-mate Darren Cave to crash through for the second try.
Sexton converted to put the Irish 21-0 up at the interval.
Argentina ‘A’ had a chance at notching their first points of the game, just a minute into the second half, but out-half Ignacio Mieres was wide with a penalty attempt from 40 metres out.
A brawl broke out in the 44th-minute but referee Chris Henshall was quick to step in and difuse the situation. Mieres then lined up his second long shot at goal which he converted to cut the gap to 18 points.
Ireland ‘A’ then gave away another three points for a ruck offence, but Mieres was off to the right for his second miss of the game.
A great break from inside centre Keith Earls in the 63rd-minute saw some superb interplay as the Irish went forty metres, and Sexton was on hand to take the scoring pass from Brian Tuohy and dot down to the left of the posts. He converted his own score and Ireland were on the front foot again at 28-3.
Argentina ‘A’ were quick to reply with their only try of the afternoon. A well-timed pass saw Gabriele Ascarate slip through in the 68th-minute. The conversion was missed.
Both teams had a player sent to the sin-bin in the 78th-minute – Ireland ‘A’ prop Mike Ross and Argentinian lock Juan Pablo Lagarrigue had some time to cool off after getting involved in some fisticuffs.
But mounting a number of late attacks, Ireland ‘A’ were able to put a final stamp on the game with a well-worked try from the midfield.
Some excellent handling saw the Argentinian defence stretched and replacement number 10 Ian Keatley pounced to score an unconverted effort in the left corner.
Bob Casey, the Ireland ‘A’ captain, said afterwards: “We are delighted with the effort we put in. You could see in the first half what we were trying to do and we could have had three or four more tries.
“In patches during this tournament we have shown the talent that is coming through in Irish rugby.”
One of those emerging internationals, man-of-the-match Sexton, added: “It was a good way to end the tournament. We worked hard during the week and it clicked today. That’s three Plate wins in a row so we have to step it up next year and challenge for the top prize.
“(Personally) I didn’t play that well in the first two games (against the USA and England Saxons), but the management stuck with me and gave me another chance.”
TIME LINE: 4 minutes – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 3-0; 8 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Denis Fogarty – 8-0; conversion: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 8-0; 31 mins – Ireland ‘A’ drop goal: Jonathan Sexton – 11-0; 34 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 14-0; 40 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Darren Cave – 19-0; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 21-0; Half-time – Ireland ‘A’ 21 Argentina ‘A’ 0; 42 mins – Argentina ‘A’ penalty: missed by Ignacio Mieres – 21-0; 46 mins – Argentina ‘A’ penalty: Ignacio Mieres – 21-3; 51 mins – Argentina ‘A’ penalty: missed by Ignacio Mieres – 21-3; 64 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Jonathan Sexton – 26-3; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 28-3; 68 mins – Argentina ‘A’ try: Gabriele Ascarate – 28-8; conversion: missed by Benjamin Urdapilleta – 28-8; 78 mins – Argentina ‘A’ yellow card: Juan Pablo Larrarigue; Ireland ‘A’ yellow card: Mike Ross; 80+8 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Ian Keatley – 33-8; conversion: missed by Ian Keatley – 33-8; Full-time – Ireland ‘A’ 33 Argentina ‘A’ 8
IRELAND ‘A’: Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster); Mark McCrea (Malone/Ulster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Keith Earls (Garryowen/Munster), Brian Tuohy (Cornish Pirates); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Frank Murphy (Leicester Tigers); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution/Munster), Mike Ross (NEC Harlequins), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Bob Casey (London Irish) (capt), Neil Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Johnny O’Connor (Corinthians/Connacht), Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).
Replacements used: Trevor Hogan (Shannon/Leinster) for Casey (59 mins), David Pollock (Dungannon/Ulster) for Wilson (66), Sean Cronin (Shannon/Munster) for Fogarty (71), Ian Keatley (Clontarf/Leinster) for Sexton (73), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for Murphy, Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster) for McCrea (both 80), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster) for O’Connor (80+1-80+10), Court for Ross (80+10).
ARGENTINA ‘A’: Lucas Barrera Oro; Gonzalo Comacho, Juan Ignacio Gauthier (capt), Federico Amelong, Francisco Merello; Ignacio Mieres, Francisco Albarracin; Daniel Rodriguez, Rodrigo Maria, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Juan Pablo Lagarrigue, Felipe Aranguren, Agustin Creevy, Genaro Fessia, Alejandro Abadie.
Replacements used: Benjamin Urdapilleta for Merello (half-time), Federico Genoud for Creevy (54 mins), Gabriele Ascarate for Mieres (66), Felipe Betolli for Orlandi (72), Francisco Gomez Kodela for Rodriguez (78), Leonardo Senatore for Amelong (80+4). Not used: Lucio Lopez Fleming.
Referee: Chris Henshall (USA)