Ireland stumble under England’s late show

IRELAND U20s suffered heartbreak in their opening IRB Junior World Championship clash against England in a thrilling Pool C clash last night.

Mike Ruddock’s side rallied from 13-0 down in the first half, to lead by two, with just over five minutes to play thanks to tries from Andrew Conway and a combined contribution of 20 points from Paddy Jackson and his replacement James McKinney.

However, England’s George Ford slotted a penalty before Ireland lost Shane Buckley to the sin bin for an off-the-ball incident, allowing Marlande Yarde to seal victory for the Six Nations Grand Slam champions late on.

That Ireland had put themselves in a winning position was remarkable. They could not have made a much worse start, when captain Niall Annett gifted England possession and Andy Short cruised over in the right corner.

Ford converted from wide on the right touch-line and added a brace of penalties as Ireland struggled to secure possession or territory; had it not been for restarts they would not have made it into the English half at all during the opening quarter.

However, they showed mental resolve, as well as defensive resilience, in managing to prevent England from building an unassailable lead before belatedly exerting control on the game.

In forcing a succession of penalties at the breakdown Jackson missed two before Ireland got off the mark with the aid of the post on the half-hour mark.

The Irish benefited from another huge slice of luck moments later when a quick drop-out from Conway clipped England captain Alex Gray, resulting in the ball dropping invitingly for the Leinster winger, who burned Jonathan Joseph on the outside before touching down.

England’s reply was swift, Henry Thomas flopping over after the Irish defence had been stretched by wave after wave of attacks.

However, Jackson landed a penalty with the last kick of the half and added another 10 minutes into the second period to draw Ireland to within two points.

The momentum appeared to be with Mike Ruddock’s side, with Annett and Brendan Macken to the fore. However, England reclaimed the initiative when their imposing Bristol prop Mako Vunipola barged his way through to score just after the hour.

But Ireland were still reigning supreme at the breakdown and McKinney landed three penalties in quick succession to put Ireland ahead for the fist time.

Their lead was not to last, though, and Owen Farrell’s conversion of Yarde’s last-gasp try from the right touchline, to deny Ireland a consolation losing bonus point, only added to their agony.

IRELAND: C Gilroy; A Conway, B Macken, L Marshall, A Boyle; P Jackson, K Marmion; J Tracy, N Annett, T Furlong; M Kearney, I Henderson; J Murphy, D Gallagher, E McKeon.

Replacements: JJ Hanrahan for Marshall, J McKinney for Jackson (59), D Qualter for Kearney (63), S Buckley for McKeon (74), D Doyle for Annett (79), P du Toit for Marmion (80), C Carey for Furlong (80),

ENGLAND: B Ransom; A Short, E Daly, R Mills, J Joseph; G Ford, C Cook (D Robson, 62); M Vunipola, M Haywood, H Thomas; J Launchbury, C Matthews; M Kvesic, M Everard, A Gray.

Replacements: O Farrell for R Mills (44), M Yarde for Joseph (52), S Jones for Everard (55), D Robson for Cook (62).

REFEREE: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

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