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Ireland Schools Side Taste Defeat In Madrid Final

Ireland Schools Side Taste Defeat In Madrid Final

The Ireland Under-18 Schools side relinquished their grip on the FIRA/AER European title as they went down by 12 points to a strong England team in Madrid.

Click here to view highlights of the Ireland-England match.

First half tries from hooker Harry Thacker and centre Javiah Pohe gave the English a 12-6 advantage at the break, with Ireland out-half Conor McKeon kicking two penalties.

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A Billy Burns penalty and a pushover try from prop Scott Wilson stretched the margin out to 16 points, but Ireland never allowed their heads to drop.

They kept pressing for scores and were rewarded with a fine try from Cian Kelleher which was converted by another of the Irish replacements, Gearoid Lyons.

That closed the gap to 22-13 with just ten minutes remaining and set up a tense finale. However, England made sure of their victory with a clinching penalty from replacement Sam Olver.

It was an entertaining, fast-paced final in which both sides played their hearts out and while they missed out on making it two titles in-a-row for this age group, these young Ireland players will learn from the experience and come back stronger.

Terry McMaster's side struggled early on with nerves playing a part. They suffered a double blow when they conceded two tries in the opening 18 minutes.

Good clearing out from the English forwards and quick passing from the half-backs set up the lively Thacker for a second minute try in the left corner.

Out-half Burns followed up with a well-struck conversion from near the touchline, but Ireland did well on the restart with Peadar Timmins and Harrison Brewer taking the direct route with ball in hand.

McKeon sent his first penalty attempt, from outside the 22, to the left and wide and Ireland were forced to defend again when England set up a close-in lineout.

They held up a maul drive in impressive fashion, with Eoghan McKeever and Sean O’Brien shunting their English counterparts back to win a scrum.

But England remained on the front foot and having moved the ball out to the left initially, powerful centre Pohe fended off a couple of defenders when crashing over for his side’s second try.

Half-breaks from Brewer and nippy scrum half Bobby Holland got Ireland into the English 22 and a clever kick to the right from McKeon gained further territory.

A tip tackle by England flanker Ross Moriarty on Timmins resulted in a penalty close to the English 22 which McKeon slotted for Ireland’s opening points.

With the wind behind him, the Irish number 10 tried his luck from close to the halfway line and his crisply-struck penalty just cleared the crossbar for a 12-6 scoreline.

Ireland showed great determination at the breakdown with captain Daniel Leavy leading by example. They went up the line with another well-won penalty, but could not make any further headway.

The momentum swung back to England in the closing stages of the first half. They turned down two kickable penalties before blundering a catch and drive effort.

Ireland had to soak up further pressure after lock Ross Molony was sin-binned but strong tackling in midfield from Rory O’Loughlin and Brewer kept England at bay, and a late turnover forced half-time.

The next score was crucial in the context of the game and it went to England. With the sun now shining, Burns popped over his only penalty of the decider to widen the margin to 15-6.

Ireland had their issues at restarts but roared on by their supporters, Leavy and company worked hard to find gaps in the English defence.

Gregory O'Shea, who only turns 17 next month, went on a penetrating run from deep and his fellow winger David Johnston also looked threatening when offered some space.

Using their greater experience and physicality, England continued to have the lion's share of territory and they pounced for their third try off a lineout maul. Wilson plunged over from close range with Burns adding the extras.

Ireland battled on and got a deserved try when Molony's neat pass sent Kelleher slicing past two defenders and over to the left of the posts for an inspirational score.

Lyons converted and another quick Irish score would have heaped more pressure on England, who lost Moriarty to a subsequent yellow card.

Ultimately though, the English had enough of a grip on proceedings to seal the win and be crowned champions of Europe. Olver's late penalty saw to that.

Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)