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Second Place Finish For Emerging Ireland

Second Place Finish For Emerging Ireland

Ian Keatley touched down twice and converted all six of Emerging Ireland’s tries as they claimed a 42-33 bonus point win over Uruguay to finish as runners-up in the IRB Tbilisi Cup competition.


The South Africa President's XV were crowned champions after their third straight victory – a 21-16 defeat of Georgia – leaving Allen Clarke's Irish side with the sole aim of leapfrogging the second-placed Georgians in the final table.

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They went about their business in clinical fashion in the first 20 minutes, crossing three times as Ian Keatley grabbed a brace and winger Tiernan O'Halloran also touched down for a 21-7 lead.

Two high quality scores from Niall Morris, allied to a Niall Annett try from a clever lineout move, pushed Clarke's charges 42-14 in front by the hour mark.

But Clarke and his coaching staff will have been disappointed with a sloppy final quarter during which the Uruguayans struck for three tries and their forwards found a second wind.

Replacement scrum half German Albanell, centre Alberto Roman and lock Franco Lamanna all reached over from close range as the South Americans – pointless in the table and without a try before today – ended the tournament on a real high.

Giving his reaction afterwards, Irish head coach Allen Clarke said: “We were really good for 50 minutes, scored some fantastic tries, but in the last 30 (minutes) we were second best. We have to learn the lessons from that.

“You cannot make the mistakes we made and expect the opposition not to score against you. Overall, I am pleased for the lads in getting the win, we have to look at the positives but also learn from where we need to improve.”

Emerging Ireland got on the front foot straight away at the sun-splashed Avchala Stadium with O'Halloran pressing forward on the right and a couple of penalties got them into scoring range.

Quick recycling from the forwards and an inviting pass from John Cooney put his half-back partner Keatley diving over in the corner past covering forwards Rodrigo Espiga and Juan de Freitas.

Keatley swung over a terrific conversion from the left touchline and the Irish notched their second try in the ninth minute, attacking from a scrum that marched confidently out of their 22.

The backs broke from deep with Eoin Griffin's deft right-footed kick staying in touch and sitting up nicely for the onrushing O’Halloran to gather and sprint in behind the posts from the left.

Keatley’s simple conversion made it 14-0 before the South Americans responded with a well-taken try by barrel chested number 8 Juan Gaminara, who crashed over through tackles from Kearney and Noel Reid.

Full-back Jeronimo Etcheverry converted from out wide, but Emerging Ireland wasted little time in cancelling out those seven points.

Prop Jack McGrath carried well initially and then Keatley used his pace to dart into space on an arcing run in the 22, throwing a dummy and slipping through a gap for his second converted try.

Griffin, Morris and Kearney all had welcome opportunities to stretch their legs, with the latter lacking support on a weaving run that took him from the Irish half to the Uruguayan 22.

The humid temperatures took their toll after a hectic opening quarter, although Emerging Ireland maintained control of the scrum against a beefy South American pack.

The pace of the game slowed coming up to half-time and Uruguay had some decent possession and territory, with a David Foley turnover and a man-and-ball tackle from O'Halloran keeping them out of the Irish 22.

The second half was just four minutes' old when a Uruguayan pass went loose on halfway. Morris grabbed the dropping ball in mid-air and there was no catching the Leicester Tiger as he galloped over to the right of the posts.

Keatley converted the bonus point try and Uruguay were now desperately trying to plug holes in their defence, the fast-breaking O'Halloran almost sending replacement Michael Allen over in the left corner.

Griffin and Cooney's replacement Michael Heaney did well to retain possession on the right before Morris ran in his second try in the space of four minutes. The tall winger scooted away from four defenders on a jinking run to the line.

Keatley tagged on the extras to widen the margin to 35-7, but Uruguay answered back in the 56th minute courtesy of a close range effort from Lamanna. The Uruguayan pack chipped away at the Irish defence and Gaminara spearheaded a couple of drives before the big second row managed to squeeze over for a seven-pointer.

Emerging Ireland were quick to respond. A lineout from a penalty saw Annett throw in to Ian Nagle and Michael Bent laid the ball off for Jordi Murphy to come in on an angle and pass to his left for the replacement hooker to make the corner.

The difficult conversion was swung over by Keatley and Emerging Ireland were playing with plenty of confidence with the promise of more tries to come in the final 20 minutes.

Uruguay had other ideas though and Albanell was unstoppable from close range after a neat link-up off the back of a scrum with the increasingly influential Gaminara.

Four minutes later, another powerful scrum from Uruguay laid the platform for Roman to muscle his way over past Keatley's challenge. The left-sided conversion was missed by Joaquin Prada.

Uruguay had nothing to lose and they were beginning to look dangerous on the counter, some clever offloads and angles of running causing plenty of headaches for the Emerging Ireland rearguard.

Peter Nelson, the replacement full-back, came to his side's rescue when making up a couple of metres on Uruguay's Maxi Gonzalez who seemed destined to finish a breakaway score in the left corner. But Nelson hauled him down short of the whitewash and held him up in a brilliant piece of defending.

Second row David O'Callaghan also earned his corn when using his big frame to hold up Leandro Leivas under the posts as the Uruguayan centre hunted for a late try.

Pablo Lemoine's determined team did have the final say as a late bout of pressure in the Irish 22 yielded a second try for Lamanna – he powered over from a couple of metres out with support from replacement prop Gaston Ibarburu.

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Emerging Ireland try: Ian Keatley – 0-5; conversion: Ian Keatley – 0-7; 9 mins – Emerging Ireland try: Tiernan O'Halloran – 0-12; conversion: Ian Keatley – 0-14; 12 mins – Uruguay try: Juan Gaminara – 5-14; conversion: Jeronimo Etcheverry – 7-14; 17 mins – Emerging Ireland try: Ian Keatley – 7-19; conversion: Ian Keatley – 7-21; Half-time – Uruguay 7 Emerging Ireland 21; 44 mins – Emerging Ireland try: Niall Morris – 7-26; conversion: Ian Keatley – 7-28; 48 mins – Emerging Ireland try: Niall Morris – 7-33; conversion: Ian Keatley – 7-35; 56 mins – Uruguay try: Franco Lamanna – 12-35; conversion: Joaquin Prada – 14-35; 59 mins – Emerging Ireland try: Niall Annett – 14-40; conversion: Ian Keatley – 14-42; 63 mins – Uruguay try: German Albanell – 19-42; conversion: Joaquin Prada – 21-42; 67 mins – Uruguay try: Alberto Roman – 26-42; conversion: missed by Joaquin Prada – 26-42; 80 minutes – Uruguay try: Franco Lamanna – 31-42; conversion: Joaquin Prada – 33-42; Full-time – Uruguay 33 Emerging Ireland 42

Referee: Vlad Iordachescu (Romania)