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Ireland Schools Miss Out In Five Nations Opener

Ireland Schools Miss Out In Five Nations Opener

The Ireland Under-18 Schools team (sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers) almost came back from the dead to stun hosts Wales in the opening match of the Under-18 Five Nations Festival at Llandovery RFC on Friday.



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Scorers: Wales: Tries: George North 2, Rob Evans, Cons: Matthew Morgan 3; Pen: Joseff Griffin
Ireland: Tries: Conor Gilsenan, Mark Corballis; Con: Paddy Jackson; Pens: Paddy Jackson 2

The pitch at Welsh club Llandovery was in remarkably good condition given the constant downpour which, thankfully, abated an hour before kick-off.

From the start, Wales, looking nervous, knocked on and were subsequently penalised for turning in at the scrum. It was an immediate opportunity Ireland out-half Paddy Jackson tucked between the posts.

However, the Welsh, who changed their entire front row from the recent defeat to England, were moving Ireland backwards at a rate of knots. It did little for the confidence of Terry McMaster’s young side.

There appeared to be compensation for the visitors as Wales encountered problems in the lineout, the first two balls lost amid a flurry of hands.

The home side’s out-half Matthew Morgan opted for position rather than points from a kickable penalty, perhaps on the back of an early miss at the posts.

Lock Luke Hamilton gathered it in and got around to have a pop at the line only to spill it forward.

It mattered little as their scrum moved to establish the platform to put centre George North smashing through the Irish defence from ten metres. Morgan converted for a 7-3 lead in the 15th minute.

It was starting to look ominous for the Irish, the disparity in power as obvious as the first quarter territorial domination. It needed a crunching tackle from left winger Sam Coghlan Murray to prevent further gains down the right.

The old pick-and-go was their best friend on the churned-up surface. Even then, the collisions were all made on Welsh terms as the back row of Owen Sheppeard, Thomas Young and Baker piled through the point of contact.

When Ireland centre JJ Hanrahan lost the ball forward near his own line, Wales looked odds-on to cross on the right only for Wales senior international Tom Prydie to repeat Hanrahan’s error with no more than three metres to go.

It mattered little. Unbelievably, referee Luke Pearce brought play back for a previous penalty award. Wales loosehead prop Rob Evans tapped and plunged for the line. Morgan was never going to miss the conversion for a 14-3 advantage at the break.

The second half started like the first with Wales conceding a chance to Jackson, this time at the ruck. It was also from much further out. Jackson was right and short from 44 metres with the backing of a considerable wind.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Wales lost their discipline on more than one occasion for a loss of yards and Jackson reduced the leeway with his second penalty in the 44th minute.

There were further signs of an Irish revival, with Jackson looking to make the ball do the work going for distance over subtlety with the boot.

It did not prevent Wales from going on the counter, and left winger Eli Walker was stopped short by an excellent tackle from full-back Charlie Simpson.

Just when it seemed a delicious punt into the right corner had put Ireland deep inside the 22, Walker electrified the crowd with a 70-metre counter that eventually led to North surging over on the right. Morgan kicked the extras.

Then, Ireland finally found their feet and hands, Jackson and Hanrahan combining to send replacement Conor Gilsenan to the posts. Jackson’s conversion narrowed the gap to 21-13 on the hour mark.

It was not just a consolation. The Irish came again at pace down the right, showing all the signs of growing confidence.

It was a pair of swift transfers from Coghlan Murray and Simpson that gave replacement Mark Corballis just enough room to ground the ball in the right corner, and a determined Ireland were just three points away.

However, Wales got back on the attack for replacement Joseff Griffin to strike a penalty in the 64th minute, stretching the distance to six points.

It was just about enough. Scrum half Luke McGrath got a glimpse of a hole that closed just in time as Ireland lost out despite a spirited comeback.

WALES U-18: Tom Prydie (Ospreys); Harry Robinson (Cardiff Blues), George North (Scarlets), Sam Campbell (Cardiff Blues), Luke Williams (Scarlets); Matthew Morgan (Ospreys), Aled Davies (Scarlets); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Jack Dando (Cardiff Blues), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Cory Hill (Cardiff Blues), Luke Hamilton (Scarlets), Owen Sheppeard (Cardiff Blues),Thomas Young (Cardiff Blues) (capt), Dan Baker (Ospreys).

Replacements used: Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues) for Sheppeard, Calum Thomas (Cardiff Blues) for Young (both 44 mins), Darran Harris (Cardiff Blues) for Evans, Will Griff John (Cardiff Blues) for Lee (both 53), Joseff Griffin (Cardiff Blues) for Morgan (57), Leighton Bellamore (Newport Gwent Dragons) for Campbell (60), Matthew Screech (Cardiff Blues) for Hamilton (63).
IRELAND U-18 SCHOOLS: Charlie Simpson (Ballymena Academy); Stephen Macauley (Clongowes Wood College), Peter Nelson (Royal School Dungannon), JJ Hanrahan (Rockwell College), Sam Coghlan Murray (Newbridge College); Paddy Jackson (Methodist College), Luke McGrath (St. Michael’s College); Rory Harrison (Methodist College), James Rael (Castletroy Community College), Niall Scannell (Present Brothers College, Cork) (capt), Yasin Browne (Christian Brothers College, Cork), Shane Buckley (Rockwell College), Adam Clarkin (Terenure College), Aaron Conneely (Colaiste Iognaid), Daniel Qualter (Sligo Grammar School).

Replacements used: Kyle McCall (Wallace High School) for Rael (half-time), Conor Gilsenan (Clongowes Wood College) for Conneely (37 mins), Mark Corballis (St. Michael’s College) for Macauley, Jack Conan (St. Gerard’s School) for Buckley (both 46). Not used: Eoghan Cross (Crescent Community College), Des Merrey (The King’s Hospital), Peter Reilly (Castleknock College), Harry Doyle (Royal School Armagh), Aaron Thomas (Castleknock College), Cathal Marsh (St. Michael’s College), Ritchie McMaster (Coleraine Academical Institution), Garret O’Suilleabhain (Clongowes Wood College).

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)

Ireland Under-18 Schools Management:

Terry McMaster – Coach
Kenneth Hooks – Assistant Coach
Gabriel Fulcher – Assistant Coach
Lorcan Balfe – Manager
Ozzie Fogarty – Doctor
David Lyons – Physio
Chris Shields – Fitness Advisor
Matthew Maguire – Team Assistant

Under-18 Five Nations Festival Results/Fixtures:

Friday, April 2 –

Ireland 18 Wales 24 
Scotland 9 England 29 

Tuesday, April 6 –

England v Ireland, 2pm
Scotland v Italy, 4pm

Saturday, April 10 –

Wales v Italy, 2pm
Scotland v Ireland, 4pm

Click here for directions to Llandovery RFC, the venue for the tournament.