The Irish U-20’s clinched a Triple Crown title and a fourth successive victory when they battled their way past a gritty Scottish side in Kilmarnock last night. The youngsters, under the guidance of former international Eric Elwood, had every reason to feel proud of themselves, even if some areas of the performance left room for improvement.
Elwood admitted it was difficult to begin with. “We didn’t make it easy for ourselves and they certainly didn’t co-operate either.
“It took us a long time to get going and there were a lot of nerves. At the end of the day, we won the match and we deserved to win it as well,” he said.
Things didn’t go well for Ireland in the early stages. They conceded a penalty to Cameron Ferguson after six minutes and then very nearly lost the plot again when Italian referee Carlo Damasco got in the way of an attacking Scottish move.
It was far from a fluent Irish performance; Scotland did themselves proud in that opening half after suffering a fair amount of trauma in the previous games.
The Scottish pack got stuck in and the Irish found it hard to cope before finally finding their feet late in the half. They could have scored on a number of occasions but instead had to rely on the boot of Ian Keatley to get them back in the match. Keatley wasted one opportunity, but he took the second, levelling the scores.
Ireland stormed into the lead early in the second half when referee Damasco awarded a penalty try after Ireland drove forward from a powerful scrum.
Keatley converted to make it 10-3 and there was really no way back for Scotland, even if the Irish continued to make things difficult for themselves.
Ireland lost the ball in contact going forward and conceded needless penalties at times when they should have been going about their business – putting a poor Scottish side to the sword!
They did succeed in doing so, however, when Shane Monahan broke through the ranks to set up a beautiful try for Darren Cave. The execution was flawless and the conversion from Keatley was just as good.
That made it 17-3, but when Cian Healy was yellow carded for a silly obstruction the Scots used the extra man well, with flanker Richie Vernon touching down for a try. Ferguson was unable to add the extra points.
Any doubt about the outcome was dispelled when Richard Sweeney swept in for a try, after scrum half Paul O’Donohoe made one of his trademark breaks.
Keatley converted to stretch the Irish lead out to 24-8. Ireland reserved something for the end when Keith Earls grabbed a try and substitute Niall O’Connor kicked a fine conversion to make it 31-8.
SCOTLAND:G. Hogg, C. Goudie, R. Hutton, R. Holroyd, A. Grove, C. Ferguson (capt), J. Hunter, A. Dymock, P. MacCarthur, K. Traynor, W. Lipp, F. McKenzie, R. Vernon, G. McGilchrist, D. Levison.
Replacements:N Hart for Hogg and B Pow for Goudie (72 mins).
IRELAND:F. Jones, S. Monahan, D. Cave, A. Wynne, K. Earls, I. Keatley, P. O’Donoghue, C. Healy, R. Sweeney, J. Hagan, C. McInerney, A. Browne, T. Anderson, D. Pollock (captain), K. Sheahan.
Replacements:R. Murphy for Sheehan (62), N. Keogh for Browne (66), N.O’Connor for Keatley, D. Drake for O’Donohoe, G. Slattery for Sweeney, E. Grace for Sheehan (all 68).
Referee:Carlo Damasco (Italy).
Result: England U-20 13 France U-21 32.