IRELAND WERE SOUNDLY beaten, 16-0, at Dubarry Park this evening to leave their championship hopes on the rocks. Having defeated Scotland in their opening fixture, Mike Ruddock’s men were targeting another ‘W’ before packing their kit-bags for an away day in England in two weeks.
The weather, a determined Wales side and some poor scrummaging combined to see Ireland fall short in Athlone but some players rose above the squall.
Max Abbott (Ireland)
The Irish front row may have struggled at the scrum but Abbott can be cleared of some of the blame as Wales props Nicky Smith and Nicky Thomas were doing most of the damage. In horrendous conditions for a lineout thrower, Abbott was 100% with his darts and constantly looked to pitch himself in at the breakdown.
Jack O’Donoghue (Ireland)
O’Donoghue reflects on Ireland’s grim evening at the office. INPHO/James Crombie
For the second week in succession Ireland’s back row was their best unit. Between O’Donoghue, Dan Leavy and Peadar Timmins, the trio won five turnovers and provided go-forward ball to get the home side in sight of the Welsh 22. The UL Bohs man was penalised for dipping into dominant Welsh scrum but more than made up for it with a bustling display and ball carries that gave his team breathing room.
James Benjamin (Wales)
Despite the strong showing from the Irish back rows, Benjamin stood out as a class above. He topped the tackle count for his side and was a constant menace at the breakdown. Secured two turnovers and slowed down Irish ball as they tried to rally in the second half. Played a key role in earning two Ethan Davies penalties.
Nick McCarthy (Ireland)
While Tom Williams of Wales ran the show behind a dominant pack, McCarthy showed a lot of, for want of a better word, moxy. His service to teammates was stealthy and he made a few darts from the base of rucks to keep the Welsh honest. The UCD scrum-half almost delivered a superb consolation score with a break from his own half but was snaffled in on the 22.
Nicky Smith (Wales)
Smith (right, wearing No.1) congratulates try-scoring Wales captain Steffan Hughes. INPHO/James Crombie
We have saved the best until last. In tandem with his Ospreys clubmate Nick Thomas, Smith toyed with the Irish scrum all evening. From as early as the sixth minute, Wales realised that they had the advantage in the battle of 8v8. Smith won his side three scrum penalties in the match and the pack gave Ethan Davies countless opportunities to practice his wind-assisted goal-kicking.
What Under 20s players stood out for you?