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Ireland Give Baby Blacks A Real Fright

Ireland Give Baby Blacks A Real Fright

From the Willie Anderson-esque challenge to the haka through to a late flurry of attacks which deserved a try, the Ireland Under-20s showed tremendous ability and commitment to the cause in a 17-0 defeat to defending IRB TOSHIBA Junior World champions New Zealand.


IRELAND UNDER-20s 0 NEW ZEALAND UNDER-20s 17, Mizuho Rugby Ground

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Scorers: Ireland: –
New Zealand: Tries: Winston Stanley, Shaun Treeby; Cons: Rob Robinson 2; Pen: Aaron Cruden

Watch the Ireland v New Zealand match in full.

A year ago, at the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales, Ireland suffered a 65-10 loss at the hands of a super-charged New Zealand side that went on to lift the trophy.

The New Zealanders have long had an aura of invincibility about them at world underage tournaments, particularly when they come up against northern Hemisphere opposition.

The Baby Blacks’ conveyor belt of talent has guided them to IRB Under-21 World Championship title wins in both 2003 and 2004, the 2007 IRB Under-19 World Championship crown and they were out on their own at last year’s Junior World Championship.

But even if Ireland succumbed once again today, there were very encouraging signs for Under-20 coach Allen Clarke and those involved with the IRFU’s age grade programme that the gap may indeed be closing between the two countries.

To put this result in some context, New Zealand have not scored as few as 17 points in an Under-20 or Under-21 international since they lost 24-17 to Australia in a pool match at the 2006 Under-21 World Championship. No side got within 25 points of them in 2008.

Clarke’s men, missing the services of suspended captain Peter O’Mahony, put in an excellent display in front of a vocal 4,447-strong crowd in Nagoya.

They knocked the defending champions off their stride in a very physical first half and set out their stall with a Herculean defensive effort by the pack, back rowers Dominic Ryan, Brian O’Hara and Rhys Ruddock were to the fore in this aspect.

Aggressive tackling and counter-rucking up front, solid control and kicking at half-back from Matthew Healy and Ian McKinley and full-back Ian Madigan, along with punchy attacking from livewire centre Nevin Spence and latterly from impressive replacements Conor Murray and Andrew Burke saw Ireland make it a real contest.

A second place finish in the RBS Under-20 6 Nations and a gritty win over Argentina in their opening Junior World Championship game had an Irish side captained by second row Ciaran Ruddock primed for a big display.

And that is exactly what they delivered, with notably Ciaran Ruddock and Madigan the only survivors from last year’s match.

New Zealand, 75-0 winners over Uruguay in their opening game, had two Super 14-capped players in their side – namely Zac Guildford from the Hurricanes and Winston Stanley from the Auckland Blues.

There was also Air New Zealand Cup experience spread across the squad and a notable family link in both the Ireland and New Zealand line-ups.

Irish winger David Kearney is a brother of Leinster, Ireland and Lions full-back Rob Kearney, while Baby Blacks wide man Nafi Tuitavake, a current member of the New Zealand Sevens squad, is a brother of current All Blacks centre-cum-winger Anthony Tuitavake.

There were some big collisions right from the off and Ireland almost sprung a first minute surprise when a kick over the top of a ruck from Healy had Michael Keating chasing towards the try-line, but New Zealand full-back Rob Robinson was alive to the danger.

A clever kick to the left corner from Aaron Cruden got the champions within scoring range. Ireland held out, conceding a fifth minute penalty which Tom Taylor knocked wide of the posts.

Two minutes later, after an offside in midfield from Tom Sexton, Taylor was wide again with a penalty chance and although the penalty count was not in Ireland’s favour at the break, their well-drilled and organised defence held Dave Rennie’s outfit at bay.

New Zealand took the lead on 12 minutes, Cruden splitting the posts from inside the 22 after O’Hara had been ruled offside.

Irish out-half McKinley, who kicked three second penalties against Argentina, missed an opportunity to reply, failing to catch his effort from inside the ten-metre line.

Ireland continued to defend strongly though. Leighton Price was hauled down just short of the try-line and the Irish forwards forced a knock-on and then a free-kick with Rhys Ruddock taking a quick tap and barging his way forward.

In a tense and hard-fought second quarter, Nevin Spence launched a superb attack out wide on the left, fending off Stanley and chipping ahead for Keating to chase.

Errors began to creep into New Zealand’s game, with Ireland putting them under increased pressure around the fringes and O’Hara and Rhys Ruddock countering well at ruck time. 

Chants of ‘Ireland! Ireland! Ireland’ went up, with the locals joining in with the Irish fans and New Zealand had a third penalty miss before they lost Robinson to the sin-bin for tackling Madigan in the air as he gathered Robinson’s chip into the 22.

Ryan had put in a crucial tackle on Guildford before that but Ireland could not made use of their numerical advantage, the best of their attacks coming from a midfield break from McKinley.

3-0 down at half-time, Clarke’s charges tried valiantly to register their first points but when New Zealand were restored to 15 players and the Irish lost centre Spence to the sin-bin, tries either side of that yellow card saw the Baby Blacks edge clear.

Cruden missed another penalty attempt at the start of the second half before Robinson tried his hand – it was the closest of the misses, hitting the left upright and Ireland were able to regroup.

The first try of the match finally came in the 54th minute when a cross-field kick from Cruden was gathered by Tuitavake and worked inside to centre Stanley – the nephew of All Black legend and World Cup winner Joe Stanley – to barrel over in the corner.

Robinson kicked the conversion and the loss of Spence to the sin-bin proved decisive with New Zealand drawing in defenders to the breakdown before spreading the ball wide for replacement Shaun Treeby to touch down within a minute of the yellow card.

The conversion from Robinson made it 17-0 and despite Ireland upping the pressure on New Zealand in the last 10 minutes, with Murray and Burke igniting some fine back-line moves, they could not find a way through the defence.

Madigan speared through the middle on the most memorable of the late attacks, before Spence was ruled to have a foot in touch as he dotted down in the right corner.

The Ballynahinch flyer was stopped short of the try-line some minutes later and then flanker Ryan and the Irish pack were held up underneath the posts as the Baby Blacks doggedly held on.

The result means New Zealand, who had the benefit of three training camps before the tournament, sit on top of the Pool A standings going into the final day of pool matches on Saturday.

They have nine points, four more than Argentina with Ireland a point adrift in third.

The champions will confirm their place in the semi-finals with victory over Argentina, who can still pip them to top spot.

The other Pool A match on Saturday sees Ireland take on Uruguay, gunning for a place in the 5th-8th place play-offs.

TIME LINE: 5 minutes – New Zealand penalty: missed by Tom Taylor – 0-0; 7 mins – New Zealand penalty: missed by Tom Taylor – 0-0; 12 mins – New Zealand penalty: Aaron Cruden – 0-3; 14 mins – Ireland penalty: missed by Ian McKinley – 0-3; 27 mins – New Zealand penalty: missed by Aaron Cruden – 0-3; 33 mins – New Zealand sin-binning: Rob Robinson (dangerous tackle); Half-time – Ireland 0 New Zealand 3; 42 mins – New Zealand penalty: missed by Aaron Cruden – 0-3; 49 mins – New Zealand penalty: missed by Rob Robinson – 0-3; 54 mins – New Zealand try: Winston Stanley – 0-8; conversion: Rob Robinson – 0-10; 59 mins – Ireland sin-binning: Nevin Spence (ruck offence); 63 mins – New Zealand try: Shaun Treeby – 0-15; conversion: Rob Robinson – 0-17; Full-time – Ireland 0 New Zealand 17

IRELAND U-20: Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster); David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster), Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Eamonn Sheridan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Michael Keating (Clontarf/Leinster); Ian McKinley (UCD/Leinster), Matthew Healy (Lansdowne/Leinster); Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Thomas Sexton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Adam Macklin (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ciaran Ruddock (Neath/Exiles) (capt), Mark Flanagan (UCD/Leinster), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Brian O’Hara (UL Bohemians/Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Millfield School/Exiles).

Replacements used: Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) for Healy, Shane Gahan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Sheridan (both 60 mins), David McGregor (Ballynahinch/Ulster) for Sexton, Paddy McAllister (Ballynahinch/Ulster) for McGrath (both 65), Andrew Burke (Garryowen/Munster) for Kearney, David O’Callaghan (UCC/Munster) for O’Hara (both 70), Jack McGrath for Adam Macklin (72), Joe Moran (Galwegians/Connacht) for Flanagan (78).

NEW ZEALAND U-20: Rob Robinson; Nafi Tuitavake, Winston Stanley, Tom Taylor, Zac Guildford; Aaron Cruden (capt), Frae Wilson; Willie Ioane Afuvai, Brayden Mitchell, Ma’afu Fia, Daniel Faleafa, Leighton Price, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Brendon O’Connor, Elliot Dixon.

Replacements used: Latu Talakai for Afuvai (9 mins), Shaun Treeby for Taylor (60), Alex Ryan for Price, Berny Hall for Boswell-Wakefield (both 64), Ken Pisi Siaosi for Guildford (65), Shae Tamati for Mitchell, Nalu Falamoe for Wilson (both 70).

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)