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Ireland Schools Side Pass Georgian Test

Ireland Schools Side Pass Georgian Test

The Ireland Under-18 Schools team, sponsored by PwC, made a winning start to the FIRA/AER Under-18 European Championship when they held off a determined Georgian side 31-27 in Moirans on Friday.

Harrison Brewer, Greg O'Shea and Billy Dardis, who all played in last year's tournament, touched down along with Jack Owens as the Ireland Schools team won this well-contested quarter-final tie in front of a 1,000-strong crowd.

This evening's victory sets up a semi-final clash with tournament hosts France in Chambery on Tuesday evening (kick-off 7pm local time).

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The opening night of 2013 event, which is being held in Grenoble, produced some top quality tries and the Ireland Under-18s were quick to get off the mark, benefiting from a solid set piece.

Quick lineout ball provided the platform for centre Brewer to spring through for a seventh minute try which out-half Ross Byrne failed to convert.

Ten minutes later, Byrne fired a penalty through the posts for a 10-0 lead as the Noel McNamara-coached youngsters continued to dictate the pace.

But the Georgians pressed from a close-in lineout and then a scrum from which Zhora Mghebrishvili and Vasil Lobzhanidze combined to put winger Iosebi Kikvadze over for a seven-pointer.

A subsequent sin-binning for Kikvadze invited Ireland forward again, with Brewer breaking through a midfield gap, however a second three-pointer from Byrne was cancelled out by his opposite number Revazi Jinchvelashvili.

With both sides guilty of knock ons and some scrappy play, the Georgians edged ahead for the first time through Jinchvelashvili's reliable boot before Byrne's third successful penalty made it 14-13 for half-time.

Ireland made a cracking start to the second half, full-back Dardis threatening during a couple of quick-fire snipes and O'Shea finished off his try with barely a minute gone. Byrne converted to put eight points between the sides.

The Georgians showed their resilience once more when, just five minutes later, they set up a five-metre lineout and Ireland's defence could not hold out as Mghebrishvili claimed try number two for the eastern Europeans.

The conversion made it a one-point game again. Georgia turned down a kickable penalty and paid the price as Ireland tore back downfield and grabbed two tries in quick succession.

Firstly, the Irish attacked from a scrum on the Georgian 10-metre line and the fleet-footed Dardis dashed away to score out wide in the corner.

The lead was extended to 31-20 after Campbell College's Owens dotted down in the opposite corner with the conversion attempt missing the target.

It was enough of a buffer for McNamara's charges to see out a hard-fought victory with a number of replacements making an impression late on.

Concerted pressure on the Irish line led to converted try from Beka Gorgadze and Ireland finished with the game with 14 men after replacement front rower Jeremy Loughman was sin-binned.

The winning margin was tighter than some would have expected, and captain Nick McCarthy and his team-mates will be targeting an improved all-round performance when they tackle France who beat Italy 32-0 in their opening game.

Speaking after the win in Moirans, scrum half McCarthy said: “We knew the Georgians were going to be a really physical team and it was going to be a really tough game.

“It was our first game together and having a tough one first up will stand to us later in the tournament. It was a good experience for the squad and the result gives us something to build on.”

2013 FIRA/AER Under-18 European Championship Results/Fixtures

Referee: Mathieu Noirot (France)