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Delight For Japan U-19s At Donnybrook As They Claim Ireland Scalp

Delight For Japan U-19s At Donnybrook As They Claim Ireland Scalp

The Ireland Under-19 team (sponsored by PwC) suffered a surprise 40-24 defeat at the hands of Japan at Energia Park this afternoon, with the visitors gaining ample revenge for their 40-29 loss at the same venue last Saturday.

There were scenes of sheer delight amongst the small travelling support at Donnybrook, with Japan full value for this famous win having outscored the Ireland Under-19s by six tries to four in a splendid performance.

Powerful number 8 Asipeli Moala, who tips the scales at over 17 stone, grabbed a hat-trick of tries, and although Ireland replied with two tries from Ballynahinch hooker Claytan Milligan and one each from Michael Milne and Kieran Dunne, they could have few complaints with the outcome.

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Ireland U-19 head coach Tom Tierney made twelve personnel changes to the side that started the opening game, and his charges found themselves behind inside five minutes when Moala crashed over for a try which Itsuki Kodama converted.

Ireland responded quickly, however, and opened their account within three minutes. Conor Hayes and Dunne combined well down the left wing and when Japan infringed at the breakdown, Ireland kicked to the corner. Captain Charlie Ryan from UCD won the lineout and as the pack rumbled forward, Milligan broke from the side of the maul to barge over for a try which Glenstal Abbey's Ben Healy failed to convert.

Japan dominated the opening quarter and it was no surprise when they extended their advantage in the 16th minute. The pack went through the phases close to the Irish line and Moala was again credited with the touchdown, although centre Kodama failed to convert on this occasion.

Colm Reilly's attempted clearance in the 25th minute was blocked down as Japan continued to pressurise the hosts. When Ryosuke Kawase, who were in the sin-bin early on for a deliberate knock-on, gathered a loose clearance near the right touchline, the winger glided through a gap between Angus Kernohan and Jamie Macartney and shrugged off Healy's tackle to score a terrific individual try which Kodama again converted.

19-5 in arrears, Ireland badly needed a score before the break. Number 8 Ruadhan Byron spilled the ball close to the line after a good passage of play, but from a quick tapped penalty, the try finally arrived as lock Luke Clohessy did well to get the ball away in the tackle to his CC Roscrea team-mate Milne and the tighthead reached over to give his side a timely lift.

Out-half Healy slotted the difficult conversion to cut the margin to seven points at 19-12 down, and it got better for the Ireland U-19s three minutes after the restart. Replacement scrum half Graham Curtis, a brother of Ireland U-20 international Angus Curtis, floated a long pass out to Shannon centre Dunne who crossed near the left corner to reduce the arrears to 19-17.

Kawase then grabbed his second try after a fine move by the Japanese backs, but Milligan quickly cancelled that out with his second following a lineout and Healy's conversion again cut the margin to just two points, setting up a grandstand finish in the process.

Flanker Kai Yamamoto gave the visitors some breathing space with a 54th minute try, again converted by the reliable Kodama for 33-14, and Ireland's cause was not helped by injuries to replacements Ryan Baird and Azur Allison, last Saturday's captain, in the closing stages.

Martin Moloney and Byron, who had both come off, were forced to return to the back row as Ireland attempted to pull the match out of the fire, but it was not to be as man-of-the-match Moala (pictured below) fittingly had the final say with his third try of the game, two minutes from time.

Speaking afterwards, Ireland U-19 team manager Barney McGonigle said: “We looked on this game as a chance to look at some more players and, while disappointed to lose, It did give the coaches a great opportunity to see more talented Ireland U-19/U-20 development players in action against international opposition.

“We knew we were playing a very talented Japanese team and they did deserve their win. These clashes over the Easter period are great from a development point of view and we look forward to more in the years ahead.

“The management will sit down tonight and, having taken medical advice on board, select a group of 26 players to play two games next week in Galway against a very strong French Under-19 team – the first one next Tuesday at the Sportsground and then the following Saturday at the same venue.”

Referee: David Sutherland (Scotland)