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Ireland U20s Edge It In Thrilling Opener

7th June 2016 By Munster Rugby

Ireland U20s overcame a 17 point deficit and scored three tries in defeating reigning Grand Slam champions Wales in this afternoon’s opening round encounter of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester.

Ireland U20s overcame a 17 point deficit and scored three tries in defeating reigning Grand Slam champions Wales in this afternoon’s opening round encounter of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester.

A thrilling and enjoyable encounter from start to finish, following three unanswered tries from the Welshmen, Ireland eventually hit their stride, scoring three unanswered tries of their own through Adam McBurney and a Jacob Stockdale brace, while the boot of debutant and Munsterman Bill Johnston contributed a dropgoal, one conversion and two penalties to Ireland’s tally.

Welsh danger-man Keelan Giles gave his side fresh hope when his second try made it a one point game with minutes to go, but Nigel Carolan’s men would not be denied in a result that sees them, for now at least, take charge of Pool A.

The worst possible start for Ireland saw them suffer at the hands of a physically dominant Welsh side – picking up from where they left off in their 2016 Grand Slam winning exploits.

Despite Daniel Jones missing the game’s opening penalty, the Welshmen were soon off the mark when Shaun Evans touched down off a powerful lineout maul.

An excellent crossfield from Jones then found Giles in space and there would be no stopping the winger for Wales’ second before potent broken-field running – after Ireland failed to clear to touch – saw Morgan Williams add their third after 20 minutes.

With Jones adding just one of his opening three conversion attempts, Wales were out a 17-0 lead.

Adapting to the world stage, Carolan’s men soon settled with Munster’s Johnston getting Ireland off the mark with a dropgoal on 24 minutes as they began to make inroads in Welsh territory.

Potential Welsh obstruction then denied his provincial college, Shane Daly, Ireland’s opening try of the game but soon after Wales got a taste of their earlier medicine when Ireland demonstrated that they too can pack a punch in the maul – Adam McBurney dotting down off solid set piece play.

Johnston was just right with the extras but on the stroke of half time bisected the posts from the right touchline when converting Ireland’s second try. With Ireland now making better headway through the phases, Jacob Stockdale crossed for their second after Wales ran out of defensive numbers on the right wing.

Quite the comeback from Ireland who trailed by just two at the interval – 17-15.

Jones and Johnston exchanged penalties in the opening exchanges of the second half, maintaining the Welshmen’s slender advantage, but on 52 minutes Ireland eventually, and deservedly, hit the front via the boot of Johnston.

In truth, Wales will have been happy to concede just three points as their last ditch defence creaked under the heavy onslaught of Ireland who themselves took the pragmatic option with a kick in front of the posts to make it 20-21 in favour of the boys in green.

In a role reversal of the game's opening 20 minutes, it was Wales who remained under the pump, Ireland solid in defence and impressive when given any space, none more so than when excellent offloading and expansive play – notably from Conor O’Brien – saw Stockdale cross for his second with Johnston just to the right with the extras.

Inevitably, Wales rallied and expansive play of their own saw Giles cross for his second on 77 minutes to set up a nervy final few minutes but ultimately Ireland’s young charges were more than up to the task today, getting an all-important Round 1 win and exacting revenge for defeat in this year’s 6 Nations.

25-26 the full time score.

Next up, Ireland U20s face reigning champions New Zealand on Saturday at 1:30pm.

Along with Johnston, the game also saw Munster's Vincent O'Brien win his first Ireland U20s cap, coming on as a second half replacement, while Ben Betts won just his second cap with an early appearance off the bench for the injured Conor Kenny.

Ireland U20s: Jacob Stockdale; Matthew Byrne, Shane Daly, Conor O'Brien (O’Brien 77), Hugo Keenan; Bill Johnston, Stephen Kerins; Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney (O’Brien 77), Conor Kenny (Betts 6); Cillian Gallagher, James Ryan – capt.; Greg Jones, David Aspil (Brown 70), Max Deegan.

Replacements: Vincent O'Brien, Vakh Abdaladze, Ben Betts, Sean O'Connor, Kelvin Brown, Niall Saunders, Johnny McPhillips, Jimmy O'Brien.

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