Ireland U20 – 0
Wales U20 – 16
WALES BROUGHT IRELAND back down to a rain-sodden earth at Dubarry Park as they comfortably beat their hosts 16-0. A Steffan Hughes try on 61 minutes was the highlight of a scrappy affair that leaves Ireland with a win [against Scotland] and defeat after their opening two Six Nations games.
The swirling winds in Athlone played havoc with everything but the scoreboard as Wales led 3-0 at the break before overpowering their hosts.
Wales had the first bite of the scoring cherry after three minutes but Ethan Davies saw his penalty eek wide at the last moment. Irish out-half Ross Byrne got his first sighter of the posts on 13 minutes but saw his kicked from 35 metres out swept right and wide of the posts.
Wales pushed back and swarmed over a Byrne drop to force the Irish forwards into handling on the deck. Davies, with the win at his back, fancied his chances but his kick was left and wide. The score was 0-0 after 20 minutes but a scrum penalty gave Davies another chance to break the deadlock. His effort was reminiscent of Roberto Carlos’ famous free-kick as he aimed five metres wide of the posts and let the wind swerve the ball over the posts.
Ireland were pinged again at the scrum as Jack O’Donoghue was guilty of picking the ball from a wheeling set-piece that was being bossed by the visitors. Davies unleashed another banana kick but was not successful. The home side’s woes were compounded on the half-hour mark as Connacht lock Sean O’Brien was subbed off after incurring a shoulder injury.
Davies had the direction of his kick perfect as Ireland settled back by the posts to reflect on another shrill whistle from referee Tom Foley. Fortunately fir Mike Ruddock’s men, the kick dropped just short and under the bar. The Wales 10 had his sixth pop at the posts on 33 minutes but was once again denied by Mother Nature’s howling gale.
Cian Kelleher featured heavily in the opening stages of the second-half. He almost unlocked the Welsh defence on 42 minutes after stepping his man but knocked on inside his own half 60 seconds later. Wales camped in the Irish 22 for five minutes and Davies eventually slotted over an easy penalty after 16 phases on play forced the home side into illegal defensive efforts.
The Wolfpuppies were on the receiving end of another Foley lecture on 54 minutes and they were lucky not to have a man sent to the sin bin. Davies made it 9-0 as Oisín Heffernan came on at tighthead in a desperate attempt to shore up a creaking scrum. Peter Dooley gave Ireland some attacking impetus with a rampaging run up the right flank but Ireland could not turn territory into points and would soon regret it.
Wales heaved into another scrum and Ben Roach teed up scrum-half Tom Wiiliams who brought play to within 5m of the Irish whitewash. Davies kept the ball in motion and inside centre Garyn Smith found Wales captain Hughes who dived over unopposed. Davies added the simple extras to make it 16-0 after 61 minutes.
As Wales emptied their bench, Ruddock did likewise and Ian Fitzpatrick made a couple of good breaks but was grounded before linking with teammates. Ireland pushed for a consolation try but were denied by strong Welsh defence.
Ireland U20: D Busby; C Kelleher, G Ringrose (D Goggin), P Robb, I Fitzpatrick; R Byrne (C McKeon), N McCarthy; P Dooley (D Coulson), M Abbott, R Burke (O Heffernan); S O’Brien (J Joyce), R Molony (F Taggart); P Timmins, D Leavy (capt.), J O’Donoghue.
Wales U20: A Bagshaw; A Hewitt, S Hughes (capt.), G Smith (T Morgan), J Adams; E Davies, T Williams (C Lloyd); N Smith, E Lewis, N Thomas (C Lewis); Scott Andrews, J Sheekey; W Boyde, J Benjamin, B Roach.
Referee: Tom Foley (Eng.)