The Ireland Under-20s suffered a 17-9 defeat at the hands of Argentina on the opening night of action at the IRB Junior World Championship in Cardiff on Friday.
2008 IRB JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – POOL A: Friday, June 6
IRELAND UNDER-20s 9 ARGENTINA UNDER-20s 17, Cardiff Arms Park
Scorers: Ireland: Pens: Martin Dufficy 3
Argentina: Tries: Diego Palma, Juan Pablo Estelles; Cons: Benjamin Madero 2; Pen: Benjamin Madero
The Junior Pumas kept the Irish tryless as they claimed a hard-fought win at a sundrenched Cardiff Arms Park.
Eric Elwood’s charges will be bitterly disappointed not to have something to show for their efforts. Ireland enjoyed huge amounts of possession but could not take their scoring chances, which Argentina did with aplomb.
Speaking afterwards, Elwood said: “We’re disappointed. The lads are shattered and not saying this game was everything for us in the group but it was important for us to get off to a good start.
“It was a very competitive game and we certainly created enough chances to win it.
“With only 12 or so minutes to go, there was only a point in it so we are devastated not to have won it.”
At the start of an evenly-matched first half, out-half Benjamin Madero gave Argentina the lead with a penalty but his opposite number Martin Dufficy levelled things up with a well-struck kick just minutes later.
Both sides looked inventive going forward but it was Argentina who raced through for the opening try. Winger Diego Palma took a superb inside pass from full-back Joaquin Tucullet to finish off a sweeping move and push his side ahead.
The young Pumas took confidence from their solid start, despite losing lock Guido Lofiego to the sin-bin.
They pressed hard for further scores, only to be denied by some excellent Irish defending – full-back Niall Morris was required to put in some last-ditch tackling in the closing stages.
The Irish had it all to do in the second half with Argentina leading 10-3, but a brilliant long range penalty from Dufficy got Elwood’s side back in touch.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men when Argentina captain Lisandro Ahaulli de Chazal and Ireland’s Kieran Essex were binned for separate incidents.
However, Ireland seemed to react the better and they narrowed the gap to 10-9 when Dufficy kicked another impressive penalty.
The Irish had plenty of possession and a try looked certain when speedy winger Sean Scanlon dived for the line but somehow, he was pushed into touch by the Argentinian cover.
Elwood’s youngsters kept building through the phases but crucially they could not make a try-scoring breakthrough.
It was left to Argentina to wrap the game up. They did so when centre Juan Pablo Estelles grabbed an intercept try before the final whistle and Madero added the conversion.
Summing up the mood in the dressing room, Ireland captain Paul Ryan said: “We had really targeted this game and though we had a lot of possession, I felt the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way.
“It’s extremely disappointing but it’s only the beginning and we can’t keep our heads down. We need to bounce back from this before our other games in the pool against New Zealand and Tonga.”
TIME LINE: 9 minutes – Argentina penalty: Benjamin Madero – 0-3; 12 mins – Ireland penalty: Martin Dufficy – 3-3; 20 mins – Argentina try: Diego Palma – 3-8; conversion: Benjamin Madero – 3-10; 26 mins – Argentina yellow card – Guido Lofiego; Half-time – Ireland 3 Argentina 10; 42 mins – Ireland penalty: Martin Dufficy – 6-10; 46 mins – Argentina yellow card: Lisandro Ahualli de Chazal; 49 mins – Ireland yellow card – Kieran Essex; 51 mins – Ireland penalty: Martin Dufficy – 9-10; 71 mins – Argentina try: Juan Pablo Estelles – 9-15; conversion: Benjamin Madero – 9-17; Full-time – Ireland 9 Argentina 17
IRELAND U-20: Niall Morris (Blackrock College/Leinster); Sean Scanlon (UCC/Munster), Eoin O’Malley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Conor Cleary (Greystones/Leinster), Chris Cochrane (Queen’s University/Ulster); Martin Dufficy (Dublin University/Leinster), David Moore (Blackrock College/Leinster); Paul Karayiannis (Queen’s University/Ulster), Jason Harris-Wright (Greystones/Leinster), Ben Barclay (UCD/Leinster), James Sandford (Queen’s University/Ulster), Eoin Sheriff (Lansdowne/Leinster), Kieran Essex (UL Bohemians/Munster), Paul Ryan (Blackrock College/Leinster) (capt), Patrick Mallon (Lansdowne/Leinster).
Replacements used: Eamonn Sheridan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Cochrane (28 mins), Ian Porter (Queen’s University/Ulster) for Moore, Michael Entwistle (Ballymena/Ulster) for Ryan (both 53), Ian Nagle (UCC/Munster) for Sandford (55), Stephen Archer (UCC/Munster) for Karayiannis (76). Not used: Stephen Douglas (Ballymena/Ulster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster).
ARGENTINA U-20: Joaquin Tucullet; Belisario Agulla, Juan Pablo Estelles, Juan Pablo Socino, Diego Palma; Benjamin Madero, Martin Landajo; Mauricio Guidone, Esteban Bustillo, Juan Figallo, Guido Lofiego, Santiago Guzm?n, Ignacio Pasman, Lisandro Ahualli de Chazal (capt), Francisco Panessi.
Replacements used: Guillermo Roan for Lofiego (45 mins), Marcos Insua for Ahualli de Chazal (55), Federico Salazar for Tucullet (61), Ignacio di Santi for Bustillo (63). Not used: Luciano Leibson, Lucas Alcacer Mackinlay, Nicolas Sanchez.
Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)