Ireland power into World U-20 semi-finals

Ireland U20s 35 Georgia U20s 7: The Etihad Stadium was rocking to 51,000 fans last night as Manchester favourites The Stone Roses blasted out, but 200 metres away it was the Fields of Athenry which heard in the evening sunshine as Ireland celebrated getting to the World Rugby U-20 Championship semi-finals.
Ireland power into World U-20 semi-finals

It’s only the second time they have reached the last four and yesterday evening’s success is the first time in the nine-year history of the competition that Ireland have won all three pool games.

Ireland will take on Argentina in the semi-finals at Manchester City Academy Stadium on Monday (5.30pm).

England will take on South Africa in the other semi-final. Champions New Zealand have been eliminated at the pool stage for the first time — the only match they lost was to Ireland on Saturday.

Ireland’s victory was achieved by making 13 changes to the side which defeated New Zealand, but it mattered little as Paul Kiernan guided them to a win which was harder earned than the scoreline might suggest.

There is no doubt this team has come some distance since losing their opening games in the Six Nations to Wales and France. Three wins to end that tournament boosted confidence and now three wins at the World Rugby U20 Championship them poised for glory.

First up will be to get over Monday’s semi-final but coach Nigel Carolan admitted it was some achievement to beat Wales, New Zealand, and now Georgia to make the last four for only the second time.

“I never thought coming to these world championships we were going to, never mind top our group, but win the three games!

“The fact that we made so many changes, we were going to lack that cohesion.

“There were some great individual displays and to get the try, the bonus point, in the last minute was very pleasing,” said the winning coach.

Ireland didn’t have it all their own way against a brave Georgian side who played most of the match with 14 men.

Flanker Ilia Spanderashvili was sent off after just eight minutes when he was adjudged to have lashed out at Irish lock Sean O’Connor. That ruined their excellent start which saw senior star Vasil Lobzhanidze dash over for a converted try after just five minutes.

Yet, the Georgians battled bravely and made Ireland work for their lead. But a superb try from winger Hugo Keenan sent Ireland on their way to the semi-finals.

And brilliant out-half McPhillips pointed them in the right direction, following up a couple of penalties with a try four minutes from the break to lead 20-7 at half-time.

A 54th minute penalty from the out-half further stretched the lead and Terry Kennedy notched the third try a few minutes later.

It took Ireland until the final play of the match to secure the bonus point victory as replacement Andrew Porter crossed and full-back Brett Connon converted to round off a good victory.

“There are no easy games in this tournament,” added Carolan. “Coming into it, our focus was all about Wales and when we came over that hurdle, there was a great opportunity against New Zealand. “And again, that momentum was massive and to come away with that one was just huge for us.

“We were always going to be a little bit concerned about what Georgia were going to bring because of the physicality, and how direct and how difficult they are to play against. So it’s very pleasing as a group to top the group at this stage and to be in the top 4, it’s superb.”

Scorers Ireland:

H Keenan, J McPhillips, T Kennedy & A Porter tries; J McPhillips 2 cons, 3 pens; B Connon con

Georgia:

V Lobzhanidze try; D Modzgvrishvili con

Ireland U-20:

B Connon (Newcastle Falcons); T Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), J O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), P Kiernan (c) (UCC/Munster), H Keenan (UCD/Leinster); J McPhillips (Queen’s University/Ulster), N Saunders (Epsom College/Exiles); J Bollard (Dublin University / Leinster), V O’Brien (Cork Con / Munster), V Abdaladze (Clontarf / Leinster); E Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster), S O’Connor (Cashel / Munster); G Jones (UCD / Leinster), C Boomer (Ballymena/Ulster), K Brown (Shannon / Munster).

Replacements:

M Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Brown (18), C Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht) for Boomer (25-31), A Porter (UCD/Leinster) for Bollard (49), A Coyle (Naas/Leinster) for Abdaladze (49), C Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht) for Jones (59), S Daly (Cork Con/Munster) for O’Brien (64), J Stockadale for McPhillips (64), S Kerins (Sligo/Connacht) for Saunders (73), A McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster) for Gallagher (73).

Replacements:

A McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster), A Porter (UCD/Leinster), A Coyle (Naas/Leinster), C Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht), M Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster), S Kerins (Sligo/Connacht), S Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster), J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).

Referee:

C Evans (Wales).

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rugbyworld rugby u-20 championshipplace: etihad stadiumplace: fields of athenryplace: manchester city academy stadiumplace: south africaplace: franceperson: paul kiernanperson: nigel carolanperson: ilia spanderashviliperson: seán o’connorperson: vasil lobzhanidzeperson: georgiansperson: hugo keenanperson: mcphillipsperson: terry kennedyperson: andrew porterperson: brett connonperson: carolanperson: h keenanperson: j mcphillipsperson: t kennedyperson: a porterperson: connonperson: lobzhanidzeperson: j o’brienperson: p kiernanperson: n saundersperson: j bollardperson: v o’brienperson: abdaladzeperson: e minternperson: s o’connorperson: g jonesperson: c boomerperson: k brownperson: m deeganperson: brownperson: c gallagherperson: boomerperson: bollardperson: a coyleperson: jonesperson: s dalyperson: o’brienperson: j stockadaleperson: s kerinsperson: saundersevent: world u-20event: world rugby u-20 championshipevent: world rugby u20 championshiporganisation: irelandorganisation: ireland u20sorganisation: georgia u20sorganisation: manchesterorganisation: stone rosesorganisation: argentinaorganisation: englandorganisation: new zealandorganisation: walesorganisation: georgiaorganisation: ireland u-20organisation: newcastle falconsorganisation: st. mary’s collegeorganisation: leinsterorganisation: ucdorganisation: uccorganisation: munsterorganisation: queen’s universityorganisation: epsom collegeorganisation: exilesorganisation: dublin universityorganisation: cork conorganisation: clontarforganisation: cork constitutionorganisation: cashelorganisation: ballymenaorganisation: ulsterorganisation: shannonorganisation: sligoorganisation: naasorganisation: connacht
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