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Jack O’Sullivan Stars As Ireland Under-20s Return To Winning Ways
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Jack O’Sullivan Stars As Ireland Under-20s Return To Winning Ways

Jack O’Sullivan Stars As Ireland Under-20s Return To Winning Ways

Tries in each half from outstanding number 8 Jack O’Sullivan helped the Ireland Under-20s defeat Scotland 30-25 in another high-scoring U-20 Six Nations encounter at Donnybrook.

Noel McNamara's youngsters again showed they are one of the best attacking sides in this year's Championship with a four-try bonus point haul, including a brace from man-of-the-match Jack O'Sullivan to add to his double last time out against Wales.

Promising Ulster forwards Matthew Agnew and Matthew Dalton also crossed the whitewash, and although it was a mostly positive night as the Ireland Under-20s claimed their second win of the campaign, defensive issues cropped up again.

Having led 18-6 at the interval, the hosts allowed Scotland to stay in contention with tries from Kyle Rowe and Martin Hughes, before a late effort from replacement prop Nathan McBeth gave the Scots a hard-earned losing bonus point.

O'Sullivan ensured a dream start for the Ireland U-20s with a third-minute try. Centre Angus Curtis made significant ground off a maul in the Scottish 22 before scrum half Hugh O'Sullivan released his namesake to bulldoze through to the left of the posts.

Harry Byrne converted and also split the posts in the seventh minute after Scotland, who enjoyed a brilliant comeback victory over England in the last round, were caught offside. Byrne's second successful penalty, towards the end of the opening quarter, made it 13-0.

In their final home game of the season, the Ireland U-20s lost experienced hooker Ronan Kelleher to injury in the 22nd minute. Soon after, a good spell for Scotland thanks to the influence of captain Robbie Smith saw out-half Ross Thompson open their account from the tee.

He tagged on a second penalty following strong carrying from Smith and Finlay Richardson, although the Scottish skipper joined his opposite number Kelleher on the sidelines just when it appeared that the Scots were finding their feet.

Ireland responded with some powerful play in the lead up to half-time. A memorable surge from Michael Silvester saw the full-back hauled down just in time by the Scottish defence. However, from a close-in scrum, number 8 O'Sullivan drove up close before flanker Agnew picked from the ruck and dived over for a 35th minute try.

Number 10 Byrne missed the conversion and was also off target with a central penalty from a scrum, early on the resumption. Angus Kernohan then lost his balance in attempting to deal with a loose ball in defence, allowing Rowe to notch an unconverted 51st-minute try for an 18-11 scoreline.

Ireland's response was an emphatic one, with sustained pressure on the left leading to a try from Ulster-capped lock Dalton, who picked from a ruck five metres out and showed his strength to make the line. Twelve points in arrears, Scotland were not prepared to go down without a fight. Blindside Hughes crossed at the back of a 58th-minute lineout maul and Thompson's conversion made it a five-point game.

This put McNamara's charges on high alert inside the final quarter and the Irish bench had the desired impact as they curbed the growing influence of the Scottish attack, as well as offering some timely direction and energy when Ireland got on the front foot.

Jack O'Sullivan saved the best for last. There were 74 minutes on the clock when he cut past a defender on the Scottish 22-metre line and showed great feet and awareness to jink around covering full-back Paddy Dewhirst and score just to the left of the posts. Replacement Conor Dean added the extras to the bonus point try and Ireland were out of sight at 30-18.

There was still enough time for Scotland to have the final say through McBeth on the stroke of 80 minutes, but Tommy O'Brien and his Ireland team-mates deservedly emerged with the spoils, including their third try-scoring bonus point of the Championship run.

Indeed, on a dramatic night in the U-20 Six Nations, previously unbeaten leaders France lost 22-6 to England and Italy made history with their first ever U-20 win over Wales, triumphing 18-7 in Colwyn Bay.

That means Ireland head into the final round still with a shot at claiming the title. They are third in the table on 12 points, trailing France and England who both have 15 points. McNamara's side need to get the better of the English in Coventry next Friday night (kick-off 8pm), and hope that Wales do them a favour in beating France at Parc Eirias.

Referee: Ludovic Cayre (France)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Michael Silvester (Dublin University/Leinster); Angus Kernohan (Ballymena/Ulster), Tommy O'Brien (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Angus Curtis (Queen's University/Ulster), Mark Keane (Queen's University/Ulster); Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Hugh O'Sullivan (Clontarf/Leinster); James French (UCC/Munster), Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster), Tom O'Toole (Banbridge/Ulster), Matthew Dalton (Malone/Ulster), Jack Dunne (Dublin University/Leinster), Joe Dunleavy (Malone/Ulster), Matthew Agnew (Ballymena/Ulster), Jack O'Sullivan (UCC/Munster).

Replacements used: Eoghan Clarke (Wanderers/Leinster) for Kelleher (22 mins), Jordan Duggan (Naas/Leinster) for French (62), Jack Aungier (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for O'Toole, Jonny Stewart (Queen's University/Ulster) for H O'Sullivan, Conor Dean (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for Byrne (all 64), James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster) for Keane (66), Ronan Foley (UCD/Leinster) for Dunleavy (73), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) for Dalton (78).

Away Team

Paddy Dewhirst (Ayr); Rory McMichael (Glasgow Hawks), Fraser Strachan (Northampton Saints), Stafford McDowall (Ayr), Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks); Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks), Charlie Chapman (Gloucester); Shaun Gunn (Edinburgh Accies), Robbie Smith (Ayr) (capt), Finlay Richardson (Edinburgh Accies), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), Jamie Hodgson (Watsonians), Martin Hughes (Heriot's), Rory Darge (Melrose), Devante Onojaife (Northampton Saints).

Replacements used: Bradley Clements (Ealing) for Smith (32 mins), Nathan McBeth (Lions) for Gunn, Logan Trotter (Stirling County) for McMichael (both 53), Marshall Sykes (St. Joseph's College/Northampton Saints) for Johnstone (60), Murphy Walker (Strathallan School) for Richardson, Connor Boyle (Stewart's Melville College) for Darge (both 71). Not used: Kaleem Barreto (Marr), Mark New (Glasgow Hawks).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Jack O'Sullivan 2, Matthew Agnew, Matthew Dalton; Cons: Harry Byrne, Conor Dean; Pens: Harry Byrne 2

Away Team

Tries: Kyle Rowe, Martin Hughes, Nathan McBeth; Cons: Ross Thompson 2; Pens: Ross Thompson 2