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Losing Finish For Ireland U-20s

Losing Finish For Ireland U-20s

The Ireland Under-20s had tries from Shane Buckley and David Doyle before succumbing to newly-crowned Grand Slam champions England, who ran out 46-15 winners at Dubarry Park.

Man-of-the-match George Ford, the son of former Ireland defence coach Mike Ford, guided England to this Grand Slam-clinching victory in Athlone.

The Leicester Tigers out-half kicked 16 points and was a real thorn in Ireland's side, dictating the play and putting his team-mates in the right position time and again.

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Ireland kept on battling right until the final whistle and although hampered by injuries and Magners League call-ups, Mike Ruddock's youngsters can be proud of their efforts – particularly in the first half.

From a position just inside the Irish 10-metre line, Ford launched over a third minute penalty for an early lead. Ireland were on the defensive for most of the opening quarter, tackling tigerishly and communicating well.

An offside call allowed Ford double England's lead in the seventh minute. First-up tackles from JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Boyle and Cathal Marsh kept the visitors at bay and a knock on from Jonathan Joseph relieved the pressure.

A lovely half-break and pass from Hanrahan put his centre partner Alex Kelly charging over the halfway line and into the English 22. A kickable penalty was won and Hanrahan popped it over in the 12th minute for 6-3.

A loose ball was then hacked downfield by Kelly and Aaron Conneely's timely tackle on the covering Ben Ransom forced a turnover. A steal from Matt Kvesic relieved the pressure for England who countered and Shane Buckley and James Tracy did well to halt their progress.

A good shove in the scrum set up 19th minute penalty which Ford missed from the right, and winger Joseph blew a try-scoring chance on the left two minutes later.

However, Ireland could not prevent lock Charlie Matthews from crossing in the left corner in the 24th minute. He made it over after neat interplay involving props Mako Vunipola and Henry Thomas, with captain Alex Gray proving the scoring pass.

Ireland built through the phases with some strong carries from Michael Kearney, Daniel Qualter and Buckley, bringing play up to the English 22.

England tapped a quick penalty after an infringement and full-back Ransom was pinged for a forward pass as he looked to put Andy Short away.

The centre partnership of Hanrahan and Kelly got Ireland firing again before England had try scorer Matthews sin-binned for a ruck infringement.

The hosts kicked two successive penalties to touch and used their maul to very good effect, with flanker Buckley stretching over from a close-in drive. Hanrahan added the conversion, to the right of the posts, to close the gap to 11-10.

England had a try ruled out for offside after lock Joe Launchbury had charged down Marsh's clearance kick, but they ended the first half strongly with a Ford penalty and a converted try from centre Ryan Mills.

McIlroy failed to find touch in injury-time and England took the opportunity to counter with Ford sending Mills through the middle and over by the posts. The conversion was tagged on for a 21-10 scoreline.

The concession of those points before the break hurt Ireland and despite the best efforts of Tiernan O'Halloran, who was an assured presence, David Doyle and the impressive Jordi Murphy and Hanrahan, England pulled away in the early part of the second half.

A 44th minute penalty from Ford was quickly followed by a breakaway try from flanker Kvesic, which saw half-backs Chris Cook and Ford create the opening and the ball bounced well for Kvesic to score.

Andrew Boyle did his best to stop hooker Mike Haywood from grounding the ball in the 49th minute, but the try was awarded which took England's lead out to 36-10.

Hanrahan kicked a penalty to touch, setting up a lineout seven metres out. However, England defended the maul well and forced a relieving penalty.

The English pack had Ireland in trouble at a series of scrums near their line and prop Tracy was yellow carded after a collapse. But the 14 men kept their try-line intact and Hanrahan booted the Irish out of their 22.

The same player led a breakout from the Irish half and in the 61st minute, Marsh's precise pass cut out two English defenders and sent hooker Doyle over for a try in the left corner.

Ireland showed great resilience to bounce back from the sin-binning and claw back territory for that try, which England replied to four minutes later. With Boyle down injured, the visitors had numbers out wide and winger Short got over in the right corner.

Boyle had to be replaced and with all of the backs on from the bench, Iain Henderson, who was a late addition to the replacements, came into the second row, Cathal O'Flaherty moved to the back row and flanker Conneely shifted out to the left wing.

Hanrahan's flat pass sent Kelly blasting through midfield and he was hauled down just short of the English whitewash. England were called offside and replacement scrum half Dan Robson was shown the yellow card.

Nonetheless, England managed to have the final say with an unconverted try in the right corner from number 8 and skipper Gray.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)