Ireland U-20s 52 Samoa U-20s 26, Avchala Stadium, Tbilisi
Hooker Ronan Kelleher helped himself to two tries as the Ireland Under-20s powered their way to a 52-26 win over Samoa in today's 9th-12th place play-off at the World Rugby U-20 Championship in Georgia.
The morale-boosting result for Peter Malone's injury-ravaged squad will see them compete for ninth place in Sunday's final round, with Argentina or hosts Georgia providing the opposition. It is Ireland's first victory of the tournament and the first time an Ireland U-20 side has scored 50 or more points since a 53-23 success against Scotland in 2010.
Tries from forwards Kelleher, Peter Cooper, Fineen Wycherley and Oisin Dowling underlined Ireland's dominance up front as they built a 26-5 half-time lead. Out-half Conor Dean landed three conversions and then added three more after the break.
The ill-disciplined Samoans, who had two players sin-binned, came more into it in the second half but 31-12 is as close as they got. Calvin Nash's third try of the tournament was followed by efforts from Kelleher, Ciaran Frawley and Caelan Doris, making it eight tries in all as Ireland rebounded well from their three pool defeats.
Needing a win to avoid a relegation play-off at the weekend, Ireland's organisation and drive up front was the difference between the sides in an opening quarter that produced three tries. With the wind behind them, the 1/7 pre-match favourites attacked hard off a scrum on halfway and after a series of pick and goes, Kelleher powered over for a fourth minute try converted by Dean.
With number 8 Doris looking back to his best, Ireland turned down two kickable penalties and continued to attack hard around the fringes. After going to the corner and securing the lineout, the pack pressed close in and tighthead Cooper marked his first start of the tournament with a seven-pointer.
Samoa then enjoyed a better spell of play, tidying up their defence and discipline, however full-back Ricky Ene missed a penalty in the windy conditions and they were soon behind their own posts again. Gavin Coombes and Dowling were to the fore of another ground-gaining set of carries from the Irish pack, with the latter's second row partner Wycherley reaching in under the posts at the 20-minute mark.
The Samoans built some decent phases in response, getting their offload game going, and lock Theodore Solipo seized his change from 30 metres out having not been held in the tackle. He touched down despite the best efforts of the covering Alan Tynan and Michael Silvester, but Ene hit the post with the conversion - his third miss off the tee.
Ireland ended the first half as they had started it - with a try. The Baby Manu lost scrum half Howard Tagoai to a yellow card for not being back 10 metres from a quick tap penalty, and the Irish front row earned the plaudits again as they won a five-metre scrum against the head and Dowling picked up to score. Dean's third successful conversion put 21 points between the sides at the break.
Malone's charges began the second half with a bang, Dean's well-weighted grubber kick giving the onrushing Nash the opportunity to turn the Samoan defence inside and out with some lovely footwork and a classy finish in the corner.
It was one-way traffic as Ireland continued to stretch Samoa's defence with captain Paul Boyle, Alan Tynan and scrum half Jack Stafford all going close. Credit to Samoan replacement Pupi Ah See for two key tackles close to his own line which denied Tynan and Stafford, who was pinged for a double movement.
It was then Ireland's turn to feel a bit of heat, Dowling seeing yellow for not rolling away and Samoan prop Setu Enoka crossed for a 57th-minute converted try. However, Kelleher completed his brace barely three minutes later, with Coombes making the initial break and skilful U-19 centre David McCarthy doing well to keep the attack going.
Influential flanker Coombes offloaded for centre Frawley to dart clear for try number seven, the score coming just after Samoan centre Tanielu Tele'a was sin-binned for kicking out on the ground. Scrum half Ah See, who impressed off the bench, got a deserved try when burrowing over from a metre out.
Samoa's try count was four by the finish with prop Afioga Ielemia crashing over in the final seconds, but before that Ireland had hit the half-century mark thanks to a deserved try from the excellent Doris, who forced his way over after replacement Adam Moloney had been held up. Notably, Instonians' promising winger Mark Keane came on for final quarter of an hour, almost marking his U-20 debut with a try late on.
Scorers: Ireland U-20s: Tries: Ronan Kelleher 2, Peter Cooper, Fineen Wycherley, Oisin Dowling, Calvin Nash, Ciaran Frawley, Caelan Doris; Cons: Conor Dean 6
Samoa: Try: Theodore Solipo, Setu Enoka, Pupi Ah See, Afioga Ielemia; Cons: Ricky Ene 3
HT: Ireland U-20s 26 Samoa U-20s 5
TIMELINE: 4 minutes - Ireland try: Ronan Kelleher - 5-0; conversion: Conor Dean - 7-0; 10 mins - Ireland try: Peter Cooper - 12-0; conversion: missed by Conor Dean - 12-0; 18 mins - Samoa penalty: missed by Ricky Ene - 12-0; 20 mins - Ireland try: Fineen Wycherley - 17-0; conversion: Conor Dean - 19-0; 25 mins - Samoa penalty: missed by Ricky Ene - 19-0; 32 mins - Samoa try: Theodore Solipo - 19-5; conversion: missed by Ricky Ene - 19-5; 37 mins - Samoa yellow card: Howard Tagoai; 38 mins - Ireland try: Oisin Dowling - 24-5; conversion: Conor Dean - 26-5; Half-time - Ireland 26 Samoa 5; 41 mins - Ireland try: Calvin Nash - 31-5; conversion: missed by Conor Dean - 31-5; 54 mins - Ireland yellow card: Oisin Dowling; 57 mins - Samoa try: Setu Enoka - 31-10; conversion: Ricky Ene - 31-12; 60 mins - Ireland try: Ronan Kelleher - 36-12; conversion: Conor Dean - 38-12; 63 mins - Samoa yellow card: Tanielu Tele'a; 64 mins - Ireland try: Ciaran Frawley - 43-12; conversion: Conor Dean - 45-12; 68 mins - Samoa try: Pupi Ah See - 45-17; conversion: Ricky Ene - 45-19; 77 mins - Ireland try: Caelan Doris - 50-19; conversion: Conor Dean - 52-19; 80 mins - Samoa try: Afioga Ielemia - 52-24; conversion: Ricky Ene - 52-26; Full-time - Ireland 52 Samoa 26
IRELAND U-20: Alan Tynan (Young Munster/Munster); Michael Silvester (Dublin University/Leinster), Gavin Mullin (UCD/Leinster), Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster), Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster); Conor Dean (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Jack Stafford (Shannon/Munster); Jordan Duggan (Naas/Leinster), Ronan Kelleher (UCD/Leinster), Peter Cooper (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Fineen Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Oisin Dowling (Lansdowne/Leinster), Gavin Coombes (Young Munster/Munster), Paul Boyle (Lansdowne/Leinster) (capt), Caelan Doris (St. Mary's College/Leinster).
Replacements used: David McCarthy (Garryowen/Munster) for Mullin (half-time), Joey Conway (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Duggan, Charlie Connolly (Dublin University/Leinster) for Cooper, John Foley (Shannon/Munster) for Coombes (all 65 mins), Mark Keane (Instonians/Ulster) for Tynan, Jack Regan (UCD/Leinster) for Wycherley (both 66), Adam Moloney (Shannon/Munster) for Kelleher, Jonny Stewart (Queen's University/Ulster) for Stafford (both 69).
SAMOA U-20: Ricky Ene (Iva Fa'asaleleaga); Darren Kellet Moore (Ponsonby), Tanielu Tele'a (Auckland Marist), Kerrod Foaese (Marist St. Pat's), Alexander Pohla (Manly); Tagaloa Fonoti (Vaiala), Howard Tagoai (Lepa/Fasitoo Uta); Setu Enoka (Marist), Noel Sanft (Letava) (capt), Afioga Ielemia (Grammar Tech Auckland), Theodore Solipo (Patumahoe Counties Manukau), Julius Togafau (Marist Pakuranga), Francis Ah Him (Marist), Caleb Faalili (Papatoetoe Club), Sione Tuipulotu (Ardmore Marist).
Replacements used: Pupi Ah See (Fasitoo Uta) for Tagoai, Petelo Ikenasio (Manurewa) for Sanft (both 46 mins), Wyatt Setu (Queensland University) for Faalili (51), Shammah-Anthony Solomona (Marist Hamilton) for Ah Him (61), Peato Toeafe (Taga) for Togafau (65), Suetena Asomua (Counties Manukau) for Enoka (68), Godinet Tinei (Waitemata Auckland) for Foaese (74). Not used: Frank Tupuola (Marist).
Referee: Tom Foley (England)