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Ireland Schools Team Open With Four-Try Victory

Ireland Schools Team Open With Four-Try Victory

The Ireland Under-18 Schools team overturned a half-time deficit to claim a 20-10 win over a tough Georgian side in their opening match of the FIRA/AER U-18 European Championship in Poland.



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Ireland scored 15 unanswered points in the second half – Jacob Stockdale grabbed two tries and flanker Will Connors also crashed over – as they won this Elite Division quarter-final in Opalenica.

It was a testing first 35 minutes for Noel McNamara's side as they fell 10-5 behind, but they improved on the resumption to set up a semi-final clash with France next Tuesday.

Jack Power countered superbly from an early kick, breaking out of his own 22, and the Blackrock College full-back soon registered the game's first try in the seventh minute.

Winger Stockdale was invited forward on the left initially and after good carries in the Georgian 22 from Andrew Porter, Peter Claffey and John Molony, space was created on the right for Power to slip through unopposed.

Matthew Gilsenan was unable to convert and Georgia responded with a try of their own in the 18th minute, having put a kickable penalty into touch.

Flanker Lasha Sajaia was held up on an initial drive, but the Junior Lelos forced a turnover off the side of a scrum and a powerful set of forward phases led to lock Mikheili Babunashvili driving over under the posts.

Winger Davit Lobzhanidze added the conversion and followed up with a well-struck penalty in the 25th minute after Ireland were pinged for not rolling away.

The exchanges up front were hugely physical with Irish captain James Ryan, Conan O'Donnell and Charles Cregan, in particular, showing great commitment in the tackle.

But Ireland were guilty of going too high on the strongly built Georgians at times, as the eastern Europeans built momentum and they deserved their five-point lead at the break.

Ireland did create some openings out wide but winger Calvin Nash unfortunately knocked on during a promising back-line move, while number 8 Max Deegan's kick was too strong as he chipped through on the left.

The sun came out for the second half and Ireland duly lifted their game, although Nash had to hobble off early on with Jordan Larmour replacing him out wide.

Out-half Gilsenan missed a penalty from inside the 10-metre line, nudging his effort to the right of the posts, but Ireland continued to probe for openings and were rewarded nine minutes in.

Larmour did well to race up and tackle the receiving Lobzhanidze into touch five metres from the Georgian try-line.

A promising maul was defended by Georgia, but quick hands from Rowan Osborne released the outside backs and Stockdale was sent over to the left of the posts. Gilsenan missed the conversion at 10-all.

Sean O'Connor, Johnny Guy and Hugo Kean were all introduced into the Irish pack, and back rower Guy made an immediate impact at the breakdown as he won a welcome penalty.

Ireland increased the pressure with a second penalty from closer in and they were over for their third try in the 54th minute, with blindside Connors diving over off the side of a ground-gaining maul.

Power sent the conversion narrowly wide and missed kicks might have hurt Ireland on another day – Gilsenan was also off target from a subsequent penalty.

However, they made certain of the win when a fourth unconverted try arrived with six minutes left on the clock.

A strong counter-attacking run from Alan McMahon – another of the eager Irish replacements – got them back up into the Georgian 22 and they gradually created numbers on the left for Stockdale to finish well and complete his brace.

Ireland are back in action in Plewiska on Tuesday (kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time), with France – 29-7 winners over Italy – providing the opposition. The winners will play either England or Wales in the Championship decider.

Referee: Fergus Kirby (England)