Leinster Development XV 24 Ireland Under-20 35
Richie Murphy’s squad completed a provincial double, following up on their victory over a Munster Development XV with another win, this time, against a strong Leinster side that contained several starters, centre Ben Brownlee, wing Aitzol King and outhalf Charlie Tector from last year’s Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning side.
As a contest it was never less than entertaining but there was a significant injury tariff, particularly in the opening half an hour, which saw a combined total of five players limp off, a familiar theme for the duration of a match that was whistled up a few minutes early as both teams had to bring back on personnel who had previously thought their afternoon was over.
There is always a balance to be struck in these games between the desire to stand out as an individual with making good choices from a team perspective. Several achieved the goal not least Irish Under-20 hooker, the outstanding Gus McCarthy, the equally impressive Diarmuid Mangan and Ruadhan Quinn, while behind the scrum, Sam Prendergast and Hugh Gavin invariably added value when they touched the ball.
The Ireland Under-20 set piece was excellent both in terms of an edge in the scrum and an ability to poach several Leinster lineout throws. Replacement scrumhalf Fintan Gunne had a fine game while number eight Brian Gleeson and tighthead prop Paddy McCarthy were usually in the epicentre of the action.
Leinster, led by the excellent Alex Soroka, suffered several injuries but they too produced some excellent passages of rugby, usually featuring Chris Cosgrave, Aitzol King, Sam Berman and Ben Brownlee, prompted by outhalf Charlie Tector while flankers Max Dunne and Josh O’Hare were diligent in their work ethic.
Leinster took the lead following a try from hooker Lee Barron – he was unfortunately forced off after just eight minutes – but the Irish 20s responded, when McCarthy’s powerful surge was finished off by Mangan who twisted over from close range.
Ben Murphy was grounded just short of the Irish 20s line, suffering a shoulder injury in the process following O’Hare’s fine break but Leinster did reclaim the lead when King’s offload in the tackle paved the way for Brownlee’s muscular finish.
The Irish 20s began to find their playing rhythm, McCarthy and Quinn playing instrumental roles in the build-up to a try from Gleeson and they closed out the half with a super solo effort from Quinn, put through a gap by Prendergast, who converted all four tries.
The flow of the game was disrupted by the steady stream of replacements, and it wasn’t until one of them, Harry West, crossed for the Irish 20s’ fifth try, after his halfback partnered Gunne, shrugged off a couple of tacklers to put him clear.
When the Irish 20s went down to 14 players after John Devine received a yellow card, Leinster scored 14 points in his absence, through tries from Oscar Cawley and Marcus Hanan that softened the disparity on the scoreboard.
Murphy is expected to announce his squad for the Under-20 Six Nations Championship on January 18th and on the evidence of some aspects of the performance there is justifiable reason to be optimistic, injuries notwithstanding.
Scoring sequence: 3 mins: Barron try, Tector conversion, 7-0; 8: Mangan try, Prendergast conversion, 7-7; 14: Brownlee try, Tector conversion, 14-7; 31: B Gleeson try, Prendergast conversion, 14-14; 36: Quinn try, Prendergast conversion, 14-21; 40: Gavin try, Prendergast conversion, 14-28. Half-time: 14-28. 60: West try, West conversion, 14-35; 70: Cawley try, 19-35; 72: Hanan try, 24-35.
Ireland U20: H McErlean (Leinster); James Nicholson (Leinster), H Cooney (Leinster), H Gavin (Connacht), I Anagu (La Rochelle); S Prendergast (Leinster), J Oliver (Munster); G Hadden (Leinster), G McCarthy (Leinster, capt), P McCarthy (Leinster); C O’Tighearnaigh (Leinster), D Mangan (Leinster); J McNabney (Ulster), R Quinn (Old Munster), B Gleeson (Munster). Replacements: J Devine (Connacht) for Cooney 15 mins; F Gunne (Leinster) for Oliver 30 mins; E O’Connell (Munster) for O’Tighearnaigh 40 mins; R Telfer (Ulster) for McErlean 46 mins; D Sheehan (Munster) for McCarthy 51 mins; J Hopes (QUB) for Gleeson 52 mins; H West (Connacht) for Prendergast 57 mins; J Costello (Munster) for Nicholson 57 mins; J Boal (Ulster) for Hadden 58 mins; F Barrett (Connacht) for McCarthy 58 mins; J Sheehan (Munster) for Quinn 62 mins; Nicholson for Costello 74 mins; Prendergast for Gunne 74 mins.
Leinster Development XV: M O’Reilly (Dublin University); C Cosgrave (UCD), B Brownlee (UCD), S Berman (Dublin University), A King (Clontarf); C Tector (Lansdowne), B Murphy (Clontarf); M Hanan (Terenure), L Barron Dublin University), T Lasisi (Lansdowne); A Soroka (Clontarf, capt), S Walsh (Lansdowne); M Dunne (Dublin University), J O’Hare (Wesley), J Doyle (Lansdowne). Replacements (all used): M Victory (Dublin University), N Sheridan (Clontarf); L O’Connor (Lansdowne) G Morris (Lansdowne), R Foxe (Old Belvedere), O Cawley (Naas), M Lynch (Dublin University), D Dooley (MU Barnhall).
Yellow card: J Devine (Ireland Under-20) 63 mins.