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Ireland U-18 Clubs & Schools Side Score Five Tries In Ashbourne Win
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Ireland U-18 Clubs & Schools Side Score Five Tries In Ashbourne Win

Ireland U-18 Clubs & Schools Side Score Five Tries In Ashbourne Win

Boosted by three first half tries, the Ireland Under-18 Clubs & Schools team held off the spirited efforts of England U-18 Counties as they won the first of the this week’s two matches at Ashbourne RFC – 29-17.

Backs Aaron O'Sullivan, Aaron Sexton and captain Bruce Houston all crossed the whitewash as the Ireland youngsters built a 17-0 half-time lead in sunny conditions at the Co. Meath venue

A Thomas Wane effort was cancelled out by full-back O'Sullivan's second try of the encounter, but the England U-18 Counties side cut the deficit to 10 points (22-12) after Joseph Lane had finished off a fast-paced move.

A well-taken score from O'Sullivan's replacement Oran McNulty – Ireland's fifth try of the afternoon – settled the issue late on before the visitors had the final say when winger Joseph Tresadern went over in the corner.

Amongst the attendance today were Ireland assistant coach Richie Murphy and Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster, with this hugely competitive opener whetting appetites for Saturday's second match in Ashbourne (kick-off 2pm).

A late try from PBC Cork's Jack O'Sullivan saw Ireland defeat the England U-18 Counties 21-17 twelve months ago, and they were also 30-15 winners of the annual fixture in 2013. The Ireland U-18 squad that drew 23-all with England in Ashbourne back in 2011 contained current professionals Tom Daly, Peter Dooley, Ultan Dillane, Conor Joyce, Eoghan Masterson and Adam Byrne.

Mark Butler's class of 2017 were drawn from all four provinces as well as a six-strong Exiles contingent, and the 24 players were representing 30 different schools and clubs on the day. Head coach Butler is supported by assistant coach Colm Tucker, scrum coach Adrian Flavin and team manager Michael Black.

Although they secured possession inside the English half initially, the Ireland U-18 Clubs & Schools team had to be on their toes in defence. Centre Samuel Stott had a strong carry for the visitors, testing out the hosts' tackling early on.

However, it was Ireland who broke the deadlock in the 14th minute and Ballymena Academy out-half Houston, who was part of last year's winning side, played a big part in the try. He combined superbly with centre Luke Fitzgerald whose neat pass sent Wasps representative O'Sullivan breaking through a tackle and racing over in impressive fashion from the left wing.

Houston missed the conversion but despite coming under subsequent pressure from the English pack, Ireland managed to extend their lead in the second quarter. Glenstal Abbey flanker Mark Fleming gobbled up a loose ball, breaking past the 10-metre line and offloading for supporting winger Sexton to grab his side's second unconverted try.

England were finding it difficult to contain the well-drilled Irish attack, and although England's Stott and full-back Joseph Lane carried effectively at times, a third try arrived for Butler's charges just before the interval. 

Young Munster clubman Fitzgerald, a nicely-balanced player who reads the game well, was an influential figure throughout the first half and he did brilliantly to slice through and offload one-handed for his skipper Houston to go in under the posts, with the conversion quickly following.

With a 17-0 deficit to overcome, England quickly got on the front foot as the second period started. Wade Williams and Frederick Barnes were introduced into their front row, and after play was spread wide from an attacking scrum, Matthew Law provided the pass for a powerful try-scoring finish from winger Wane.

Law was off-target with his first shot at the posts and Ireland made sure they were next on the scoreboard. Although a potential score by Rainey Old Boys prop Jack McIntosh was ruled out, they restored their 17-point advantage with 17 minutes left in the game.

Houston's audacious cross-field kick was gathered by Galwegians winger Hugh Lane, who did well to keep the ball in play, and O'Sullivan was on hand to break over in the right corner for his second try. England hung in there, though, and from the restart, they ran strongly and moved the ball at pace for Joseph Lane to touch down.

With both coaches dipping substantially into their reserves, the play was quite open in the closing stages, and it was Bath clubman McNulty who came on for the injured O'Sullivan and successfully squeezed through on the right for Ireland's fifth and final try. He was the beneficiary of a pinpoint pass from CBC Cork scrum half Colin Sisk.

Houston added an outstanding conversion to make it 29-12 to the hosts before England rounded off the scoring with a sweeping attack that was completed by Tresadern in the left corner. So, an Ireland win, five tries to three, and the promise of much more to come on Easter Saturday.

Referee: Stephen Allsop (Wales)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Aaron O'Sullivan (Wasps/Henley College/Exiles); Hugh Lane (Galwegians/Presentation College Athenry/Connacht), Kieran Dunne (Sale Sharks/Exiles), Luke Fitzgerald (Young Munster/Glenstal Abbey/Munster), Aaron Sexton (Bangor Grammar School/Ulster); Bruce Houston (Ballymena Academy/Ulster) (capt), Colin Sisk (CBC Cork/Munster); Jack Walters (London Irish/St. Paul's CC Sunbury/Exiles), Callum Torpey (London Irish/Epsom College/Exiles), Jack McIntosh (St. Pius Xavier College/Rainey Old Boys/Ulster), Oisin Kiernan (Campbell College/Ulster), Paddy Kelly (St. Munchin's College/Munster), Cian Huxford (Galway Corinthians/Calasantius College/Connacht), Mark Fleming (Glenstal Abbey/Munster), Colin Deane (Bandon Grammar School/Munster).

Replacements used: Jamie Macartney (Campbell College/Ulster) for C Deane (43 mins), Sean Molony (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Torpey, Darragh Bolger (Clontarf FC/Portmarnock Community School/Leinster) for Walters (both 54), Tom Maher (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Lane (57), Oran McNulty (Bath/Millfield School/Exiles) for O'Sullivan (59), Caolan Englefield (Harlequins/St. Paul's CC Sunbury/Exiles) for Sisk, Conor Kelly (CC Roscrea/Leinster) for Fitzgerald (both 63), Conor McMenamin (Letterkenny RFC/Colaiste Ailigh/Ulster) for Kiernan (67).

Away Team

Joseph Lane (King Henry VIII School/Warwickshire); Thomas Wane (Eastbourne College/Sussex), Cameron McDonald (Farnborough College of Technology/Hampshire), Samuel Stott (Lancaster Royal Grammar School/Lancashire) (capt), Joseph Tresadern (Southam College/Warwickshire); Matthew Law (Kings Grammar School Grantham/Lincolnshire), Samuel Pocklington (Queen Ethelburga's/Yorkshire); William Roberts (Lutterworth RFC/Leicestershire), Connor Johnson (Myerscough College/Lancashire), Harry Butler (Queen Ethelburga's/Yorkshire), Jake Clemson (Truro & Penwith College/Cornwall), Dominic Groom (English Martyrs Catholic School/Leicestershire), Oliver Bee (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I/Leicestershire), Cameron Terry (Cheltenham College/Gloucestershire), Edward Brown (Queen Ethelburga's/Yorkshire). 

Replacements used: Wade Williams (Sedbergh School/Lancashire) for Roberts, Frederick Barnes (Cokethorpe School/Oxfordshire) for Butler (both half-time), Jack Granby (Runshaw College/Lancashire) for Clemson (45 mins), Benjamin Atkins (St. Paul's Catholic College/Berkshire) for Bee (49), Henry Pearson (Kirkham Grammar School/Lancashire) for Wane (50), Alexander Burrage (Bishop Heber High/Chesire) for Law (54), John Kenward (Princethorpe College/Leicestershire) for Johnson, Alexander Skinner (Reigate Grammar School/Surrey) for Pocklington (both 56).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Aaron O'Sullivan 2, Aaron Sexton, Bruce Houston, Oran McNulty; Cons: Bruce Houston 2

Away Team

Tries: Thomas Wane, Joseph Lane, Joseph Tresadern; Cons: Alexander Burrage