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Ireland U18 Clubs Triumph Over Italy

8th November 2018 By The Editor

Ireland U18 Clubs wear their club colours in Treviso.

Ireland U18 Clubs wear their club colours in Treviso.

The Ireland U18 Clubs side ran out 31-12 winners over the Italy Academy Under-18s on the all-weather pitch at the La Ghirada centre in Treviso.

A total of four Munster players were involved in the match with Waterpark’s Jay Traynor starting in the second-row, Cobh Pirates’ Darragh McCarthy coming on at tight-head, Nenagh’s Dylan Murphy scoring the fifth try off the bench, and Ennis’ Ethan Coughlan featuring at scrum-half.

IQ Rugby out-half Cooke converted first half tries from Josh O’Connor, Eoin de Buitléar and Jamie Osborne as the Ireland youngsters, coached this season by Fiach O’Loughlin and Jonny Graham, established a 21-7 half-time lead over a combative Italy side.

The hosts cut the gap to nine points with their second try, but there was no catching O’Loughlin’s charges as O’Connor completed his brace out wide and a powerful lineout maul saw replacement hooker and Nenagh’s Murphy crossing in the 67th minute.

The match was fiercely competitive right from the off with good hassling from scrum half Aodha Hession, forcing a knock-on from his opposite number and a subsequent penalty for offside. Cooke won the early kicking battle, and a charge-down by Boyne centre Martin continued to put the Italians under pressure.

A solid Irish defensive spell was capped off by prop Monty Royston’s penalty win at the breakdown, and with the resulting lineout maul earning a penalty, Cooke used the advantage to left foot an inviting cross-field kick out to the right wing. O’Connor collected it on the Italian 10-metre line and outpaced the covering defender to run in a well-taken eighth-minute try, crisply converted by Cooke.

Italy were level within four minutes, their forwards pressing from a five-metre scrum before Mirco Spagnolo managed to burrow over. However, a combination of Martin and Traynor swatted Cooke’s restart kick back into Irish hands, and tighthead Cian Scanlon then got the chance to carry hard up to the 22.

O’Connor threatened again from a Martin kick near the right touchline, before Donnacha Byrne took the ball on and then Connacht hooker de Buitléar, with support from his captain Murray, drove over from eight metres out. Cooke added the extras for a 14-7 lead, with another well-struck kick to the right of the posts.

Image: Munster contingent from left to right, Darragh McCarthy (Cobh Pirates), Ethan Coughlan (Ennis RFC), Fiach O’Loughlin, Ireland U18 Clubs Head Coach, Jay Traynor (Waterpark RFC) and Dylan Murphy (Nenagh RFC).

A forward pass from Hession spoiled a promising attack sparked by Jennings’ break from halfway, while de Buitléar just failed to hold onto a Jennings pass as Ireland went close to scoring a third try, following an impressive surge from O’Connor down the opposite wing.

That score arrived in the 24th minute when Naas full-back Osborne threw a dummy, ghosted through a gap and flew past an attempted tackle to run in from 40 metres out. Cooke, who provided the assist, also converted to restore the seven-point gap.

There was a late onslaught from Italy approaching the interval, with a try eluding them on a number of occasions. Waterpark lock Traynor stood out in defence with a try-saving tackle on the Italian tighthead, and then a crucial turnover while Ireland scrambled to hold out. Mark Boyle, Oisin McCormack and Royston also combined in a well-executed choke tackle just a few metres out from the Irish line.

The Azzurrini did manage to close the gap, five minutes into the second half, with a sweeping move out to the right and winger Andrea Pancini’s neat finish in the corner. A marginal call had prevented Ireland from extending their lead before that, as Martin, who had fastened onto Cooke’s dink through, was whistled up for being just ahead of the kicker.

Ireland were quick to respond to that concession, Royston’s impact at the breakdown forcing a penalty and with Murray tapping down the lineout, the green shirts moved infield before switching play out to the right. Italy were caught narrow in defence and Hession and Osborne linked up to feed O’Connor who used a strong hand-off to finish expertly from 35 metres out.

After the difficult conversion was narrowly missed by Cooke, Ireland maintained their presence in the Italian half and O’Connor was a whisker away from claiming a hat-trick – a slight knock-on denied him from another well-judged cross-field kick from Cooke. Traynor also went desperately close to scoring via a defence-splitting run from Zach Kavanagh.

Smart kicking from Osborne and replacement Cathal Forde, who pinged a penalty deep into the 22, kept Ireland playing in the right areas of the pitch, and the result was wrapped up by a Murray-won lineout and Murphy plunging over from a well-controlled maul.

The final few minutes offered further encouragement for the Irish management as their troops stood firm in defence, thwarting Italy’s attempts to notch a closing try from an advanced scrum position. Ennis young gun Coughlan pounced on a loose ball and retrieved possession from his own hack-on, ensuring that Ireland ended the game on the front foot.

Ireland U18 Clubs: Jamie Osborne (Naas RFC/Leinster); Josh O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Leinster), Shane Jennings (Ballinasloe RFC/Connacht), Karl Martin (Boyne RFC/Leinster), Zach Kavanagh (SGS Filton College/IQ Rugby); Michael Cooke (Newcastle Falcons RFC/Sedbergh School/IQ Rugby), Aodha Hession (Creggs RFC/Connacht); Monty Royston (Hartpury College/IQ Rugby), Eoin de Buitléar (An Ghaeltacht/Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Cian Scanlon (An Ghaeltacht/Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Darragh Murray (Buccaneers RFC/Connacht) (capt), Jay Traynor (Waterpark RFC/Munster), Mark Boyle (Gorey RFC/Leinster), Oisin McCormack (Ballinasloe RFC/Connacht), Donnacha Byrne (Sligo RFC/Connacht).

Replacements used: Darragh McCarthy (Cobh Pirates RFC/Munster) for Scanlon (40 mins), Liam Bishop (Yorkshire Carnegie RFC/Trent College/IQ Rugby) for Royston (47), Ethan Coughlan (Ennis RFC/Munster) for Hession (51), Cathal Forde (Corinthians RFC/Connacht) for Cooke (56), Dylan Murphy (Nenagh Ormond RFC/Munster) for de Buitléar (58), Conor O’Shaughnessy (Galwegians RFC/Connacht) for Kavanagh (60), Cathal Fleming (Monivea RFC/Connacht) for Traynor, Hubert Costello (Corinthians RFC/Connacht) for Boyle (both 63).

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