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Second Half Fightback Not Enough For Ireland Under-18s
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Second Half Fightback Not Enough For Ireland Under-18s

Second Half Fightback Not Enough For Ireland Under-18s

The Ireland Under-18s produced a strong second half display in Caerphilly earlier today as Noel McNamara’s side ended their U-18 Five Nations Festival with a narrow 22-17 defeat to Italy.

The Ireland U-18s were hoping to build on their comprehensive 43-0 victory over Scotland at the same venue last Tuesday, but even though Blackrock College's Caelan Doris was in fine form once again, the Italians ultimately claimed the spoils courtesy of a solid first half platform.

It has been a productive tournament for Ireland, and with players from all four provinces represented in the starting line-up (as well as Exile Ollie Brown), they were aiming to finish their week on a high.

Indeed, an early break from out-half David Hawkshaw (a recent Leinster Schools Senior Cup winner with Belvedere College) brought Ireland into the opposition half, and strong defence was required from Italy to prevent winger Daniel Hurley from crossing the whitewash.

The Munster underage starlet was ultimately held up five metres from the line, and after some patient build-up play in the fifth minute, centre Ludovico Francesco Vaccari broke through for the opening try via an excellent offload by out-half Antonio Rizzi. The influential Rizzi also converted.

Ulster centre James Hume has been a key figure for Ireland in their success against Scotland, but he was unfortunately wide of the mark with his first penalty kick against Italy. Tommy O'Brien then looked set to breach the Italian defence in the 20th minute, before referee Ross Mabon called play back for crossing.

Ireland then suffered a setback when flanker Charlie Ryan was forced out of the action with a dislocated shoulder. His place in the back row was taken by John McCusker of Rainey Old Boys, and with just two minutes remaining in the half, a sharp lineout move from the Italians produced a try for lock Edoardo Iachizzi.

Rizzi's successful conversion meant that Italy brought a 14-0 lead into the interval, but when the match resumed, Ireland were determined to work their way back into the reckoning. They were doing their best to keep the Azzurri youngsters on the back foot, and their persistence paid off seven minutes in when an attacking lineout move led to a try from Irish skipper Doris.

The towering number 8 had registered a hat-trick against Scotland, and even though Ireland failed to tag on the conversion, they had significantly reduced the Italian advantage.

Yet, Italy maintained their composure, and from a neat chip into space, winger Yannick Abanga from Perpignan dotted down on the left flank. This helped them to reopen their 14-point lead, before a tremendous try by replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher – 20 minutes from time – ensured that Ireland were once again within touching distance.

This set up an intriguing final quarter, but despite coming up short from an earlier three-point opportunity, Italian replacement Michelangelo Biondelli created further daylight between the teams with a successful place-kick.

In spite of a second try from the outstanding Doris in the latter stages – his fifth in just two games – the Ireland U-18s came up just short in the end.

Referee: Ross Mabon (Scotland)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Tommaso Coppo (Rugby Petrarca); Giovanni d'Onofrio (Rugby Benevento), Andrea de Masi (Benetton Treviso), Ludovico Francesco Vaccari (Unione Rugby Capitolina), Yannick Abanga (Usap Perpignan 1902); Antonio Rizzi (Marchiol Mogliano), Nicolò Casilio (Pol. L'Aquila Rugby); Danilo Fischetti (Unione Rugby Capitolina), Matteo Luccardi (Rugby Colorno), Michele Mancini Parri (Rugby Club I Medicei), Edoardo Iachizzi (Unione Rugby Capitolina), Michele Mantovani (Femi-CZ Rovigo), Jacopo Bianchi (Rugby Club I Medicei), Michele Lamaro (Primavera Rugby) (capt), Niccolò Cannone (Florentia Rugby).

Replacements used: Lodovico Manni (Marchiol Mogliano) for Iachizzi (41 mins), Matteo Canali (IMA Lazio) for Mantovani (48), Michelangelo Biondelli (Femi-CZ Rovigo) for Rizzi, Antonio Ros (Lafert San Donà) for Parri (both 60), Federico Gubana (Benetton Treviso) for Casilio, Flavio Fusco (Unione R. Capitolina) for Luccardi (both 71).

Away Team

Hugh O'Sullivan (Belvedere College/Leinster); Ollie Brown (Harpenden RFC/Exiles), James Hume (RBAI/Ulster), Tommy O'Brien (Blackrock College/Leinster), Daniel Hurley (Crescent CC/Munster); David Hawkshaw (Belvedere College/Leinster), Jonathon Stewart (Wallace High School/Ulster); Michael Milne (Cistercian College Roscrea/Munster), Tadgh McCarthy (Bantry Bay RFC/Munster), Tom O'Toole (Campbell College/Ulster), Matthew Dalton (Belfast Royal Academy/Ulster), Charlie Ryan (Blackrock College/Leinster), David Robb (Galwegians/Connacht), Sean Masterson (Portlaoise RFC), Caelan Doris (Blackrock College/Leinster) (capt).

Replacements used: John McCusker (Rainey Old Boys/Ulster) for Ryan (25 mins), Ronan Kelleher (St. Michael's College/Leinster) for McCarthy, Conor Dean (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Robb (both 27), Conor Dean (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Stewart, Callum Reid (RBAI/Ulster) for Milne (both half-time), James Newey (Christ College Brecon/Exiles) for Brown (52).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Ludovico Francesco Vaccari, Edoardo Iachizzi, Yannick Abanga; Cons: Antonio Rizzi 2; Pen: Michelangelo Biondelli

Away Team

Tries: Caelan Doris 2, Ronan Kelleher; Con: James Hume?