Ireland finish runners-up in first ever U20s World Championship final

Ireland finish runners-up in first ever U20s World Championship final
Ireland's Ben Betts (left) and Adam McBurney tackle England's Harry Mallinder (centre). Picture: Sportsfile

Ireland 21 England 45

The Ireland Under-20s were comprehensively beaten by England in tonight's World Rugby U-20 Championship final, going down 45-21 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Nigel Carolan's young guns were unable to get a foothold in the first half as the dominant hosts touched down through Joe Marchant (13 minutes), Callum Chick (21) and Huw Taylor (31).

The closing 40 minutes were much more competitive as the sides shared out six tries - Adam McBurney, Shane Daly and Max Deegan all crossed for Ireland - but captain and man-of-the-match Harry Mallinder, who collecte 25 points, ensured a third World U-20 title in four years for England.

It was a hugely frustrating finish to the tournament for Ireland who had overcome defending champions New Zealand, Grand Slam winners Wales and Argentina on the way to their first decider at U-20 level.

Skipper James Ryan and his team-mates strung together seven victories on the bounce since losing away to France in the Six Nations. Included in that run was an excellent 26-20 comeback victory over England in Newcastle, but the addition of Northampton starlet Mallinder and others to the English squad for the World Championship saw them turn the tables in decisive fashion.

England were first to threaten in Salford through centre Johnny Williams, but a malfunctioning lineout let them down with Ryan and Deegan getting in for steals.

Although Mallinder missed his first shot at the posts from distance, England held territorial advantage and with Johnny McPhillips down injured, Marchant took full advantage with a cracking 13th-minute solo run to score by the posts. Mallinder quickly made it 7-0.

The white shirts continued to flood forward, establishing an edge in the scrum and after two successive five-metre put-ins, number 8 Chick dived over near the left corner. Mallinder's pinpoint conversion rubbed salt into Irish wounds.

Ireland's reaction was encouraging, Ryan and Ben Betts prodding a hole in the English midfield and full-back Jacob Stockdale showing well with the boot and ball in hand.

England continued to win the collisions, though, and a poor chip kick out of his 22 from out-half McPhillips saw his opposite number Mallinder combine with Williams to put lock Taylor over for a converted try on the half hour mark.

Ireland's attacking play was far too predictable as England's well-organised defence made their tackles and won the breakdown battle, thwarting Carolan's charges off an advanced lineout position.

Despite a momentum-building surge from Conor O'Brien at the start of the second period, England countered through the jet-heeled Marchant. He broke up the left touchline and with referee Paul Williams ignoring a forward pass - not for the first time - the ball was worked to the supporting Mallinder for a seven-pointer under the posts.

Five minutes later, Ireland were finally on the scoreboard. Hugo Keenan went close on an arcing run towards the left corner flag and the pack used a penalty for hooker McBurney to muscle over from close range.

However, McPhillips' expertly-landed conversion from far out was quickly followed by a fifth English try, their quick-witted angles of running and offloads freeing up Mallinder for his second of the night.

The high rate of scoring continued as Ireland answered back just two minutes later, Stockdale gliding through on a brilliant run from inside his own half and passing, one-handed, for centre Daly to finish off in the right corner. McPhillips' conversion brought the deficit back to 21 points.

Ireland entered the final quarter down to 14 men, though, as scrum half Stephen Kerins saw yellow for interfering with Harry Randall from a quickly-taken penalty. Mallinder mopped up with the three points.

Try number six followed for England in the 68th minute, space wide on the left seeing Marchant gobble up an inviting kick from Mallinder and shrug off Stockdale to complete his brace.

Ireland maintained a high work-rate with their bench being unloaded and their persistence paid off with a late consolation score from number 8 Deegan, who stretched over after a typically powerful carry from Andrew Porter. Replacement Brett Connon's conversion closed out the scoring.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O'Donovan congratulated the Ireland team on their progress into their first ever final at this leval.

Minister Ross said: "On behalf of the Irish people I am delighted to congratulate the Ireland U-20 Rugby Team.

"The World Rugby U-20 Championship is the pinnacle of the age-grade rugby calendar and it was a fantastic achievement for the team to get to their first World Championship final.

"Each and every member of the squad can feel very proud of their performances over the last few weeks.

"Great credit is also due to head coach Nigel Carolan, and his coaching and management team for all their work in preparing the team for the tournament. I am sure the team’s performances in the World Cup will inspire more young people to take up the sport and follow in their footsteps."

Minister O’Donovan said: "I would like to congratulate the Ireland U-20 Rugby Team on finishing runners-up at the World Rugby U-20 Championship in Manchester this evening.

"...After their defeat of Wales in their opening game of the tournament the team grew in confidence and went on to become the first ever Irish men’s side to defeat New Zealand at any grade of rugby. They then went on to defeat Georgia and a strong Argentinian side in the semi-final.

"The many successes of the team throughout the Championship is hugely encouraging for the future of Irish Rugby and I am sure we will see many of the squad play senior international rugby for Ireland in the future."

TIME LINE: 10 minutes - England penalty: missed by Harry Mallinder - 0-0; 13 mins - England try: Joe Marchant - 5-0; conversion: Harry Mallinder - 7-0; 21 mins - England try: Callum Chick - 12-0; conversion: Harry Mallinder - 14-0; 31 mins - England try: Huw Taylor - 19-0; conversion: Harry Mallinder - 21-0; Half-time - England 21 Ireland 0; 42 mins - England try: Harry Mallinder - 26-0; conversion: Harry Mallinder - 28-0; 47 mins - Ireland try: Adam McBurney - 28-5; conversion: Johnny McPhillips - 28-7; 50 mins - England try: Harry Mallinder - 33-7; conversion: Harry Mallinder - 35-7; 52 mins - Ireland try: Shane Daly - 35-12; conversion: Johnny McPhillips - 35-14; 60 mins - Ireland yellow card: Stephen Kerins; 61 mins - England penalty: Harry Mallinder - 38-14; 68 mins - England try: Joe Marchant - 43-14; conversion: Harry Mallinder - 45-14; 79 mins - Ireland try: Max Deegan - 45-19; conversion: Brett Connon - 45-21; Full-time - England 45 Ireland 21

ENGLAND U-20: Max Malins (Saracens); Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins), Joe Marchant (Harlequins), Johnny Williams (London Irish), Matt Gallagher (Saracens); Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints) (capt), Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie); Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie), Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), Billy Walker (Saracens), Stan South (Harlequins), Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors), George Nott (Sale Sharks), Will Evans (Leicester Tigers), Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons).

Replacements used: Harry Randall (Gloucester) for Green (33 mins), Will Stuart (Wasps) for Walker (55), Jack Willis (Wasps) for Nott, Andrew Kitchener (Worcester Warriors) for South (both 62), Tom West (Wasps) for Boyce (65), Nott for Chick (66), Charlie Piper (Harlequins) for Singleton (70), Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie) for Aspland-Robinson, Ollie Thorley (Gloucester) for Gallagher (both 71).

IRELAND U-20: Jacob Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Matthew Byrne (Terenure College/Leinster), Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster), Conor O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster); Johnny McPhillips (Queen's University/Ulster), Stephen Kerins (Sligo/Connacht); Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster), Ben Betts (Young Munster/Munster), Sean O'Connor (Cashel/Munster), James Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster) (capt), Greg Jones (UCD/Leinster), David Aspil (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster).

Replacements used: Jimmy O'Brien (UCD/Leinster) for C O'Brien (56 mins), Brett Connon (Newcastle Falcons/Exiles) for McPhillips (57), Kelvin Brown (Shannon/Munster) for Aspil, Vincent O'Brien (Cork Constitution/Munster) for McBurney (both 62), Niall Saunders (Harlequins/Exiles) for Kerins, Evan Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster) for O’Connor (both 70), Adam Coyle (Naas/Leinster) for Betts (76). Not used: James Bollard (Dublin University/Leinster).

Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)

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