Eleven points from the boot of out-half Ian McKinley, allied to a try from new centre Nevin Spence, steered the Ireland Under-20s to an impressive 16-9 opening win over Argentina at the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship in Japan.
2009 IRB TOSHIBA JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – POOL A: Friday, June 5
ARGENTINA UNDER-20s 9 IRELAND UNDER-20s 16, Mizuho Sports Park, Nagoya
Scorers: Argentina: Pens: Tomas Rosati 3
Ireland: Try: Nevin Spence; Con: Ian McKinley; Pens: Ian McKinley 3
Ian McKinley kicked three second half penalties to give Ireland a 16-9 victory over Argentina in a closely-fought Pool A encounter in wet conditions in Nagoya.
The result saw Ireland gain revenge for a 17-9 defeat by the Junior Pumas at last year’s tournament and boost their hopes of topping the pool and therefore heading to Tokyo for the semi-finals of the 2009 Junior World Championship.
Both teams looked to gain a territorial advantage early on, but after a succession of missed penalties and drop goals at each end, it was Allen Clarke’s fired-up outfit who went ultimately went ahead.
Centre Nevin Spence, who has been promoted from the Under-20 Development squad, capped a flowing move from the backs by scoring an early try.
McKinley showed great hands to pass to winger Dave Kearney who picked his line perfectly and burst through the defence before offloading for Spence to cross the try-line. The try was converted by McKinley.
Matters for Argentina then got worse as they suffered a considerable blow by losing Tomas Cubelli to injury, the scrum half now seemingly ruled out of the tournament after damaging his knee.
However this only spurred the South Americans on and out-half Tomas Rosati kicked two penalties before half-time to send them in trailing 7-6, giving the Argentina head coach Eduardo Fernandez Gill hope for the second half.
Rosati and McKinley exchanged penalties early in the second half, but this was to be the last points the Pumitas would score.
McKinley added two more penalties before the full-time whistle to give a deserved opening day win.
The victory will give Ireland a confidence boost heading into their toughest pool match against defending champions New Zealand on Tuesday, which will be shown live on the tournament website, www.irb.com/jwc, with full delayed coverage on Setanta Sports Ireland at 5pm.
Speaking after his side’s opening game of the tournament, Ireland coach Allen Clarke said: “We were happy with the first 10 or 15 minutes, we came out and played the way we wanted.
“We controlled the game, we knew what Argentina wanted to do with their kicking game and I thought we dealt with that quite well, but as the game went on we made it hard for ourselves.
“We forced things at times, our error count was a lot higher than we expected or wanted it to be, and we made the game hard for ourselves.
“Bottom line is that we were the better team on the day.”
Credit to the Ireland pack for standing firm in the physical contest up front, marshalled superbly by team captain Peter O’Mahony.
Thomas Sexton, Ciaran Ruddock and Brian O’Hara, another graduate from the Under-20 Development squad, made lively contributions in defence and attack, while try scorer Spence, Kearney and Jonny Shiels looked dangerous with ball-in-hand and combined well with the half-backs.
Giving his reaction, Argentina assistant coach Diego Albanese admitted: “We knew that the conditions weren’t good and it was a question of keeping the ball, controlling it and having a good kicking game.
“I think Ireland did this a lot better than us. They made far less mistakes than we did today.
“Today was 50:50, but Ireland were more clinical. They took their chances and they deserved to win.”
TIME LINE: 1 minute – Ireland penalty: missed by Ian McKinley – 0-0; 13 mins – Ireland try: Nevin Spence – 0-5; conversion: Ian McKinley – 0-7; 15 mins – Argentina penalty: missed by Tomas Rosati – 0-7; 22 mins – Argentina penalty: Tomas Rosati – 3-7; 25 mins – Argentina penalty: Tomas Rosati – 6-7; 39 mins – Ireland penalty: missed by Ian McKinley – 6-7; Half-time – Argentina 6 Ireland 7; 42 mins – Ireland penalty: Ian McKinley – 6-10; 45 mins – Argentina penalty; Tomas Rosati – 9-10; 50 mins – Ireland penalty: Ian McKinley – 9-13; 58 mins – Ireland penalty: Ian McKinley – 9-16; Full-time – Argentina 9 Ireland 16
ARGENTINA U-20: Joaquin Tuculet; Marcos Rosasco, Severiano Escobio Ionna, Pablo Molina, Federico Soldini; Tomas Rosati, Tomas Cubelli; Lucas Garcia Larsen, Luciano Proto, Francisco Tetaz Chaparro, Nicolas Guisasola, Santiago Guzman (capt), Alan Kessen, Rodrigo Baez, Santiago Rocchia.
Replacements used: Gregorio Garriga for Cubelli (24 mins), Tomas De La Vega for Rocchia (50), Tomas Borghi for Guisasola (55), Nicolas Mirande for Tetaz Chaparro (58), Alesandro Torres Suar for Rosasco (59), Joaquin Diaz Bonilla for Rosati (68). Not used: Joaquin Aleman.
IRELAND U-20: Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster); David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster), Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Jonny Shiels (Queen’s University/Ulster), Michael Keating (Clontarf/Leinster); Ian McKinley (UCD/Leinster), Matthew Healy (Lansdowne/Leinster); Paddy McAllister (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Thomas Sexton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Ciaran Ruddock (Neath/Exiles), Mark Flanagan (UCD/Leinster), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Brian O’Hara (UL Bohemians/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) (capt).
Replacements used: Eamonn Sheridan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Shiels, Adam Macklin (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for McAllister (both 48 mins), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) for Healy, David O’Callaghan (UCC/Munster) for Flanagan (both 69), Joe Moran (Galwegians/Connacht) for Ruddock (74), Andrew Burke (Garryowen/Munster) for Keating (77). Not used: David McGregor (Ballynahinch/Ulster).
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)