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Ireland Under-19s Edged Out By England

Ireland Under-19s Edged Out By England

A terrific drop goal at the end of normal time from out-half Sam Olver proved to be the difference between the sides as the Ireland Under-19s were narrowly beaten in an entertaining clash with an impressive England U-19 outfit at Donnybrook.

Despite starting the game in bright fashion, the Ireland Under-19s soon found themselves on the back foot as England were starting to get plenty of joy out on the right flanker.

Dynamic wing play from Zach Kibirige, along with strong scrummaging by lock Tom Ellis, went close to breaching the Irish rearguard, but some fine tackling by the hosts managed to keep them at bay during the opening ten minutes of action.

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The pressure from the English side was relentless though and it came as no surprise when scrum half Jordan Burns from Harlequins touched down to the left posts after showing plenty of initiative in one of England's more enterprising attacks.

This was certainly a setback for Colin McEntee's charges but with out-half Olver coming up short with his conversion attempt, the blow was lessened somewhat.

England were the dominant force during the opening period and they increased their lead to 8-0 in the 21st minute when Olver easily slotted a close-in penalty.

Ireland did have a chance to cancel out this score just four minutes later when Conor McKeon stepped forward to take a 30-metre place-kick, but the Gonzaga man was wide of the mark with an uncharacterstically wayward strike.

Ireland suffered another blow when flanker Joe Bercis was sent to the sin-bin moments later, and England took full advantage during his time off the pitch.

Ross Moriarty powered over on the left for a try just past the half hour mark. Olver was narrowly off target once more with the conversion attempt, but England were nevertheless full value for their 13-0 interval advantage.

However, it was far from being an insurmountable lead and although they took a while to settle into the second half proceedings, the Irish team eventually found a way to deal with the threat offered by England.

The introductions of Shane Delahunt, Jacob Walshe and Rory Burke provided plenty of bulk in the Irish scrum, but it was the intricate link play between centres Rory O'Loughlin and Peter Robb that led to Ireland's first score of the
afternoon with 30 minutes remaining.

Robb was the playmaker on this occasion, as his neat offload made it possible for outside centre O'Loughlin to cross for a try on the right hand side.

The well-taken score was converted with relative ease by McKeon, which suddenly gave McEntee's youngsters a real chance of getting a positive result from this encounter.

Indeed, matters became even more interesting on the 55th minute mark when a tricky kick downfield by the increasingly influential McKeon deceived England full-back Nathan Earle. He was unable to deal with the bounce, and Old Belvedere's Robb was on hand to reach over in dramatic fashion for another try.

McKeon's conversion shot was a lot more difficult this time and although he hit it with plenty of conviction, his kick drifted just past the right hand post.

The momentum was very much with Ireland at this point and when McKeon registered a breathtaking drop goal with two minutes of normal time to play, a victory looked well within the reach of the hosts.

Yet, Olver and England had other ideas, and his equally well-struck drop goal from open flew between posts, giving his side a hard-earned triumph in spite of some late pressure from Ireland which included two missed drop goal attempts.

The England line-up contained five players who played in the recent Under-20 Six Nations campaign, so the McEntee-led Irish management team will draw plenty of encouragement from their side's second half comeback.

The Ireland Under-19s have a second match to play against France on Saturday, with Montargis' Stade Champfleuri the venue (kick-off 4.30pm local time/3.30pm Irish time).

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)