Reported from the Irish Times website, was on in Donnybrook yesterday.
Ireland Under-20s 24 Ulster Ravens 23:
IF ONE is to nitpick, and surely Ireland Under-20s coach Mike Ruddock will be doing just that, then the last quarter of this performance against an Ulster selection will come in for serious scrutiny.
What is clear from the warm-up games over the past 10 days is Ireland will be competitive at this age grade level come the Six Nations. There is quality at both scrumhalf and outhalf in recent St Michael’s College rugby nursery graduates Cathal Marsh and Luke McGrath, while the backrow is teeming with muscular, classy operators.
There were plenty of positives to glean from yesterday’s outing at a chilly Donnbyrook. Up to about the hour mark that is. Thereafter the Ulster pack upped the physical stakes and the Irish eight visibly struggled.
They conceded a try off a lineout driving maul, which is just the type of assault the French (Grenoble on February 11th) and English (Adams Park on March 16th) will undoubtedly unleash. It was prop Conor Carey who flopped over the line.
Then Conor Gaston profited from sloppy handling in midfield to kick on and be first to the bobbling ball. Stuart Olding’s conversion brought matters back to the minimum but time was up.
The quality of Marsh and Sam Coghlan Murray was evident in their combination for the game’s opening try on 28 minutes. A solid scrum saw clean ball go to Marsh, who swerved to attack the openside only to put his blindside winger though a gaping hole with a reverse pass.
Marsh also slotted that conversion as he shared place-kicking duties throughout with JJ Hanrahan.
The next try ensured Ireland had enough breathing space despite Olding punishing most infringements (the Irish defensive line went offside every time Ulster entered their 22). Again, it came off a solid scrum. When Ulster flanker Dom Gallagher was sin-binned by referee Eanna O’Dowd, Irish hooker and captain Niall Scannell signalled for a scrum.
With impressive number eight Jordan Coghlan in the blood-bin, former St Gerard’s College backrower Jack Conan switched to number eight. Conan attacked blind, took contact and sent Shane Buckley over with a neat offload.
Ireland continued to pile on the pressure early in the second half and when they went wide at pace Carthy claimed the third try. The fourth belonged to the rugby brain of McGrath. The scrumhalf’s quick tap and acceleration was enough to get him over before any defenders could stop him.
IRELAND UNDER-20S: J Carthy (Connacht); C Finn (Connacht), B Daly (Leinster), JJ Hanrahan (Munster), S Coghlan Murray (Leinster); C Marsh (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht); K McCall (Ulster), N Scannell (Munster), P Reilly (Leinster); T Beirne (Leinster), D Qualter (Connacht); J Conan (Leinster), A Conneely (Connacht), J Coghlan (Leinster). Replacements used: C Gilsenan, S Buckley, C Kindregan, D Higgins, C O’Connell, D Merrey, L McGrath, C Farrell, F Horan.
ULSTER RAVENS: R Andrew; R Scholes, M Irwin, C Gaston, T Acheson; S Olding, J Creighton; R Jablonski, J Burns, C Carey; D O’Mahony, J Simpson; A Duhig, D Gallagher, D McGuigan. Replacements used: J Andrew, C Taylor, N McComb, P Farrell, M McAuley.
Referee: E O’Dowd.