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Ireland Under-19s Win Eight-Try Thriller

Ireland Under-19s Win Eight-Try Thriller

A strong start and finish saw the Ireland Under-19s overcome a stiff challenge from their French counterparts in the first of two matches between the teams.



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The 31-20 victory continues an excellent run of results for the Ireland underage teams this week – the Under-18 Schools and Under-19 sides both beat France and the Under-18 Clubs outfit got the better of England.

The Ireland Under-19s, sponsored by PwC, were playing together for the first time since December's loss to Australia at Ravenhill, and this Templeville Road fixture afforded Colin McEntee's charges the opportunity to get back to winning ways.

France were impressive 54-14 winners over Japan recently, but it was the hosts who enjoyed a dream start to proceedings.

A strong drive towards the French line inside the opening 60 seconds put Ireland on the front foot immediately and wily out-half Sean O'Hagan ghosted through a gap to score to the left of the posts.

Garry Ringrose, a star performer for Blackrock College during their Leinster Schools Senior Cup triumph last year, added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

The confidence-boosting score helped Ireland settle quickly into their stride and by the fifth minute they had a second converted try on the board.

Jack Owens from Campbell College raided through to score a brilliant solo effort. The pacey winger received the ball deep in the French half and avoided the waiting tackles with a drop of a shoulder and a sprint in under the posts.

Ringrose's conversion put Ireland 14-0 in front but the French recovered well to notch an unconverted try through outside centre François Fontaine.

A promising move, 12 minutes in, found its way to Lucas Blanc on the right wing and although he was squeezed out by Owens just shy of the line, his neat offload allowed Fontaine to crash over.

Fontaine missed the conversion from the right, but there was now reason for Irish captain Lorcan Dow and his team-mates to be wary of the French threat.

Indeed, after Ringrose had seen a 25-metre penalty drift wide in th 17th minute, the French crossed the whitewash for a second time.

Ireland conceded a five-metre scrum and following a fine pick at the back by Fabien Sanconnie, scrum half Anthony Meric was able to dive over in the right corner.

Fontaine added the conversion for good measure and after enduring a nightmare start, the visitors were now firmly in contention.

The concluding stages of the opening half were far cagier in nature, but with Ireland's interval lead standing at just two points – 14-12 – a compelling second period lay ahead.

Having rallied impressively after the early Irish onslaught, France managed to edge ahead thanks to out-half Lucas Meret's magnificent drop goal from an awkward angle.

The onus was now on Ireland to hit back. In spite of stern resistance by the French defence, the home side finally broke through for a third try 15 minutes after the restart.

An enterprising maul on the right flank was eventually finished off by lock Alex Thompson for an unconverted score. Considering how tight the exchanges were becoming, this looked like being a pivotal moment in the game.

It did not work out that way as France restored their one-point advantage (20-19) in the 54th minute with another well-worked try, this time by flanker Lucas Bachelier.

This set up a tantalising final quarter in which Ireland really showed their mettle, much to the delight of the vocal home support at St. Mary's College RFC.

Ringrose touched down on the left wing seven minutes from the end following terrific approach work by replacement Josh Bingham and Owens.

The centre's try, preceded by some tremendous driving from the pack, provided the inspiration for a storming finish from McEntee's youngsters.

Deep into injury-time, hooker Sean McNulty – one of the Under-20-capped players involved – profited from another well-orchestrated maul to score a fifth and final try.

An expertly-struck conversion by Ringrose pushed the winning margin out to 11 points, setting things up nicely for the rematch at the same venue next Tuesday afternoon (kick-off 2pm).

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)