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Ireland U-20s Go Through To Semi-Finals As Unbeaten Pool Winners
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Ireland U-20s Go Through To Semi-Finals As Unbeaten Pool Winners

Ireland U-20s Go Through To Semi-Finals As Unbeaten Pool Winners

The Ireland Under-20s got the better of 14-man Georgia (35-7) to qualify for the World Rugby U-20 Championship semi-finals as unbeaten Pool A winners.


Ireland's third victory on the trot in Manchester – and first by way of a bonus point – saw them match the 2014 team's achievement of reaching the last-four in the world.

Next Monday's semi-finals will see Nigel Carolan's class of 2016 take on Argentina (who went three from three in Pool C), and the second match-up is tournament hosts and Pool B winners England versus Pool C runners-up South Africa. Full details of the semi-finals are here.

Vasil Lobzhanidze and Hugo Keenan swapped early tries at the Manchester City Academy Stadium, but the Georgians had a huge task on their hands after flanker Ilia Spanderashvili's eighth-minute dismissal.

Much-changed Ireland, with just two starters retained from the New Zealand game, ended the first half with a 20-7 lead, out-half Johnny McPhillips kicking two penalties and converting his own well-taken 36th-minute try.

McPhillips finished with a handsome 18-point haul, which included the conversion of Terry Kennedy's try on the hour mark, but it was until the final minute that the bonus point was secured by replacement prop Andrew Porter.

Stand-in captain Paul Kiernan admitted afterwards that Ireland had made 'tough work' of seeing off last year's World Rugby U-20 Trophy champions whose pack made sure they remained competitive despite the loss of their blindside.

“We knew Georgia would be really physical and they really took it to us but in the end we were pleased to get the bonus point and move on,” admitted Kiernan. “At half-time we weren't very happy with our control of the game, we were giving away a lot of possession with nine turnovers at that time, but we got that right and started playing in the wide channels. I'm really proud of the boys.”

The Junior Lelos gained an early set piece platform and their scrum half and captain Lobzhanidze – capped at last year's Rugby World Cup – caught the Irish defence napping with a terrific dummy and sprint over to the left of the posts.

His half-back partner David Modzgvrishvili converted their first ever U-20 Championship try, but Ireland hit back within three minutes. The lively Kennedy led a free-flowing back-line move that ended with fellow winger Keenan stepping in off his left to score a fine try.

Before McPhillips could convert, Welsh referee Craig Evans was alerted to some foul play in the build-up and following consultation with the TMO, Spanderashvili saw red for lashing out at man-of-the-match Sean O'Connor in an off-the-ball incident.

A well-struck 13th-minute penalty from McPhillips put the pool leaders ahead for the first time, and after Niall Saunders threatened on a kick chase and Ireland advanced with a maul, McPhillips made it 13-7 with his reliable right boot.

Modzgvrishvili missed an opportunity to respond following a second powerful scrum from the Georgians, and a couple of handling errors prevented Ireland from converting a promising spell in the 22 into a second try.

Kennedy had a foot in touch after a defence-splitting midfield run from McPhillips, who was the man to make the breakthrough just before the interval. Ireland again posed a threat off a lineout maul, replacement Max Deegan was tackled short of the line before neat feet from McPhillips saw him snipe over just beside the posts, adding the conversion himself for a 13-point buffer.

Debutant lock Evan Mintern won a ruck penalty to lift some early Georgian pressure on the restart, while fellow new cap Conall Boomer also showed well on a powerful burst from deep and also when assisting in a subsequent attack that eventually saw Kiernan run out of room.

McPhillips' third successful penalty was the only score of a rather listless third quarter until Greg Jones' brilliantly-timed pass out of the tackle released Jimmy O'Brien who fed Kennedy for a simple finish in the right corner.

McPhillips' conversion attempt came back off the left hand post and although a general lack of accuracy cost them at times, Ireland continued to create scoring opportunities and probe for that elusive bonus point score.

Their patience was tested as scrum half Saunders had a knee in touch before he reached over by the left corner flag, ruining some impressive carrying in the build-up from Deegan, Adam Coyle and Boomer, in particular.

Saunders' replacement Stephen Kerins then scampered over from the Georgian 22-metre line – only to be denied by an earlier forward pass from Shane Daly – but a third maul infringement saw Georgia lose replacement hooker Luka Goginava to the sin-bin and Porter seized the initiative, muscling his way over despite the presence of two covering defenders. Brett Connon added the extras from the left from good measure, sealing a 28-point winning margin.

TIME LINE: 5 minutes – Georgia try: Vasil Lobzhanidze – 0-5; conversion:  David Modzgvrishvili – 0-7; 8 mins – Ireland try: Hugo Keenan – 5-7; conversion: Johnny McPhillips – 7-7; 8 mins – Georgia red card: Ilia Spanderashvili; 13 mins – Ireland penalty: Johnny McPhillips – 10-7; 17 mins – Ireland penalty: Johnny McPhillips – 13-7; 21 mins – Georgia penalty: missed by David Modzgvrishvili – 13-7; 36 mins – Ireland try: Johnny McPhillips – 18-7; conversion: Johnny McPhillips – 20-7; Half-time – Ireland 20 Georgia 7; 54 mins – Ireland penalty: Johnny McPhillips – 23-7; 59 mins – Ireland try: Terry Kennedy – 28-7; conversion: missed by Johnny McPhillips – 28-7; 79 mins – Georgian yellow card: Luka Goginava; 80 mins – Ireland try: Andrew Porter – 33-7; conversion: Brett Connon – 35-7; Full-time – Ireland 35 Georgia 7

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Brett Connon (Newcastle Falcons/Exiles); Terry Kennedy (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Jimmy O'Brien (UCD/Leinster), Paul Kiernan (UCC/Munster) (capt), Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster); Johnny McPhillips (Queen's University/Ulster), Niall Saunders (Harlequins/Exiles); James Bollard (Dublin University/Leinster), Vincent O'Brien (Cork Constitution/Munster), Vakh Abdaladze (Clontarf/Leinster), Evan Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean O'Connor (Cashel/Munster), Greg Jones (UCD/Leinster), Conall Boomer (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Kelvin Brown (Shannon/Munster).

Replacements used: Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Brown (17 mins), Cillian Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht) for Boomer (25-32, temp sub), Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) for Bollard, Adam Coyle (Naas/Leinster) for Abdaladze (both 49), Jacob Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for McPhillips, Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster) for J O'Brien, Gallagher for Jones (all 65), Stephen Kerins (Sligo/Connacht) for Saunders, Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster) for Gallagher (both 73).

Away Team

Mirian Modebadze (AIA, Didi 10); Lado Miminoshvili (Batumi, Didi 10), Giorgi Koshadze (Kharebi, League 1), Giorgi Kveseladze (Armazi, Didi 10), Sandro Merkvilishvili (Armia, Didi 10); David Modzgvrishvili (Academia, Didi 10), Vasil Lobzhanidze (Armazi, Didi 10) (capt); Tornike Mataradze (AIA, Didi 10), Lasha Sajaia (Jiki, Didi 10), Lasha Tabidze (Bordeaux-Begles), Mikheil Babunashvili (AIA, Didi 10), Otar Giorgadze (Clermont Auvergne), Ilia Spanderashvili (Armia, Didi 10), Giorgi Tsutskiridze (Brive), Beka Gorgadze (Stade Montois).

Replacements used: Demur Epremidze (Kochebi, Didi 10) for Giorgadze (25 mins), Irakli Tskhadadze (Armazi, Didi 10) for Babunashvili (39), Giorgi Melikidze (Stade Francais) for Tabidze, Luka Goginava (Locomotivi, Didi 10) for Mataradze, Gela Afrasidze (Lelo Saracens, Didi 10) for Miminoshvili (all 54), Sandro Iluridze (Academia, Didi 10) for Koshadze (57), Giorgi Khuroshvili (Armazi, Didi 10) for Sajaia, Rati Shanidze (Lelo Saracens, Didi 10) for Merkvilishvili (both 69).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Hugo Keenan, Johnny McPhillips, Terry Kennedy, Andrew Porter; Cons: Johnny McPhillips 2, Brett Connon; Pens: Johnny McPhillips 3

Away Team

Try: Vasil Lobzhanidze; Con: David Modzgvrishvili