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Dramatic Draw For Ireland U-20s In Llanelli

Dramatic Draw For Ireland U-20s In Llanelli

Replacement hooker David Doyle struck for an injury-time try as the Ireland Under-20s earned a share of the spoils with their Welsh counterparts at Parc y Scarlets.

Friday night's tie was a cliffhanger and went one way and the other until David Doyle crashed over in the dying minutes, finishing off a determined attack.

Paddy Jackson, who impressed once again in the number 10 jersey, had a chance to win the game with his conversion.

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Unfortunately for Mike Ruddock's young side, Jackson's attempt bounced back off the left hand post to leave the final scoreboard showing 26-26.

It was a courageous performance from Ireland, especially as they lost their hooker and captain Niall Annett to an early injury.

Ulster's Craig Gilroy, who turned 20 today, and Luke Marshall were back available for Ireland's fourth match in this year's Championship.

A strong opening scrum, with tighthead prop Martin Moore to the fore, set the tone for the visitors and Jackson was successful from the resulting long range penalty.

The scrum was a very good facet of play for Ireland again and the likes of Moore, James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong have benefited from working with Reggie Corrigan in recent weeks.

But Ireland leaked a soft try in the third minute after centres Alex Kelly and Marshall had taken them over the halfway line.

A loose pass from scrum half Blane McIlroy was seized upon by Wales number 8 Ben Thomas who kicked ahead and forced a fumble from Jackson close to the Irish try-line, allowing winger Adam Warren to swoop in and score.

Matthew Morgan converted for a 7-3 scoreline, only for Ruddock's youngsters to hit back with 15 unanswered points.

That impressive scoring run was started by a Michael Kearney-won penalty which Jackson dispatched through the uprights.

It was a bright, open first quarter as both sides looked to put width on the ball. Jackson made a lovely break which could have led to the first Irish try and a body check by Steve Shingler on the Irish out-half went unpunished.

But, just moments later, an Ireland maul was held up just short of the try-line, and on the next drive, Moore, with support from Shane Buckley and Aaron Conneely, was able to muscle over from close range.

Only six minutes after that, Gilroy scored a tremendous individual try to increase Ireland's lead to 18-7.

He burst onto a clever pop pass from Jackson, sliced open the Welsh midfield and wrongfooted full-back Shingler before powering over past the final three defenders for a seven-pointer.

The 45-metre run added to Gilroy's growing reputation and some Welsh observers already knew of his finishing skills, remembering his brace of tries for Ulster against the Cardiff Blues back in November.

However, Wales had the better of proceedings coming up to half-time and did well to pare the deficit back to 18-17. A strong tackle from Owen Williams forced Ireland off the ball and the Welsh quickly turned defence into attack as Harry Robinson sent Williams over for a converted try.

Morgan added a penalty, but Jackson got Ireland off to a pleasing start in the second half with a penalty after three minutes.

The Irish forwards continued to work hard and carry well, with Daniel Qualter, Buckley and Jordi Murphy standing out in that regard. Doyle also showed well, connecting with his jumpers in the lineout and moving quickly from ruck to ruck.

During a good early spell, Sherlock attacked with vigour and went close to scoring a try. Qualter did well to charge down a clearance kick, but Wales scrambled back to avert the danger.

Jackson was off target with a penalty attempt and Sherlock stopped what looked a certain Welsh try, as the game continued to ebb and flow.

Morgan took centre stage then, drilling over three penalties in the final eight minutes of normal time. But there was no panicking from Ireland.

They regained possession in injury-time from a Morgan kick, before launching a final attack which ended with UCD clubman Doyle crashing over for a levelling 83rd minute try which television match official Stefano Marrama confirmed.

That left Jackson with a kick to win the game. The Dungannon ace gave it every chance, but his attempt struck the post and Wales clung on for a draw.

Great credit to both teams, this was a smashing advertisement for Under-20 rugby and another positive step for Ireland as they build towards next week's clash with England in Athlone and the upcoming IRB Junior World Championship.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)