Irish finish on high but Scannell rues one slip

Ireland’s Under 20s finished on a high to clinch fifth place at the Junior Rugby World Cup in Cape Town yesterday with a comprehensive victory over France in Cape Town’s Newlands Stadium.

Mike Ruddock’s team, captained by Munster’s Niall Scannell, had to produce another top class performance to overcome the French but they did so with a bit of style despite having to labour with only 40% of possession.

France scored the only try of the game through centre Geol Fichou, converted by Enzo Selponi, but Ireland were the better side, particularly after they took a 27th-minute lead.

The Irish relied on JJ Hanrahan with six penalties, but they created a number of try-scoring opportunities.

If there is panic in senior ranks about the lack of quality front-row forwards, there are plenty of good signs for the future. Ireland’s scrum was dynamic and if skipper Scannell gets credit for some of that, Des Merrey and Tadhg Furlong, the Clontarf and Leinster pair, laid down a marker that forced France to struggle throughout the contest.

Ireland will look back on their campaign with a mixture feelings. Victories over host nation South Africa, England and France helped them to a best ever finish in this four-year-old competition, but as Scannell said after the game: “We let ourselves down in the first of our two games against England and that cost us a place in the semi-finals and the chance to compete for the title.

“The good thing is that since then we have risen to the challenge and I couldn’t have asked for any more than that from the guys.”

Hanrahan kicked five penalties before France grabbed their converted try, and the Irish out-half knocked over a sixth goal two minutes from the end to seal the win.

IRELAND U-20: P Nelson (Dungannon/Ulster); B Daly (UCD/Leinster), S Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), C Farrell (Dungannon/Ulster), F Horan (Lansdowne/Leinster); JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), K Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht); D Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster), N Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) (capt); T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), A O’Connor (UCD/Leinster), T Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster), I Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster), J Coghlan (UCD/Leinster), J Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster).

Replacements used: J Rael (Garryowen/Munster), P Reilly (Lansdowne/Leinster), J Cawley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Buckley (Garryowen/Munster), A Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht), L McGrath (UCD/Leinster), J Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht), C Finn (Buccaneers/Connacht).

Referee: F Pastrana (Argentina)

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