/ Six Nations 2016

Ireland U20s produce stunning comeback victory

By Dave Mervyn | Updated: Friday, 26 Feb 2016 22:47 | Comments

Ireland's Johnny McPhillips get's away from Jack Singleton
Ireland's Johnny McPhillips get's away from Jack Singleton

The Ireland Under-20s blitzed England with 20 unanswered second half points to claim a famous 26-20 win in Newcastle.

Ireland's first away victory over England since 2010 was set up by a run of tries from captain James Ryan (48 minutes), Matthew Byrne (53) and Andrew Porter (67) and five points from Brett Connon's boot.

Nigel Carolan's side turned the game on its head having trailed 20-6, with England's first half tries coming from Sam Smith and George Perkins.

The hosts had been good value for their lead on Kingston Park's all-weather surface, but Ireland, who had been guilty of sloppy second half displays against Wales and France, gradually wore then down with skipper Ryan a very deserving man-of-the-match.

In a tense conclusion, Ryan's brilliant one-handed offload sent prop Porter crashing over to put Ireland in front for the first time. The latter was the victim of a tip tackle that saw England replacement Stan South sent-off in the 74th minute and replacement Connon slotted the resulting three-pointer to seal the result.



Ireland's first success of the 2016 Championship seemed a long away off early on. Sharp English out-half Mathew Protheroe almost put Perkins away on the right wing and a dominant first scrum earned them a penalty.

England displayed great power and control from the resulting fourth-minute lineout maul to give flanker Smith a simple finish at the back of the drive, with Protheroe also converting crisply.

Handling errors let Ireland down as they twice got into the hosts' 22, although there were positive signs as Shane Daly, Conor O'Brien and Cillian Gallagher gained good yardage in the initial phases.

Injury unfortunately forced Jack Power off in the eighth minute, with Terenure College clubman Byrne coming onto the wing and Hugo Keenan reverting to the full-back position.

Better continuity off scrum half Stephen Kerins' snappy deliveries led to a penalty on the 10-metre line which Johnny McPhillips drilled over in confident fashion for 7-3.

From a similar position, the Ireland out-half nudged a 42-metre effort to the right and wide after England lock George Nott interfered with Kerins at the back of a ruck.

But England went up a gear when the fleet-footed Protheroe dummied past Conan O'Donnell and Jimmy O'Brien on halfway, accelerated away from the cover tackle and passed on the 22-metre line for Perkins to finish off under the posts.

The conversion was added by Protheroe and the sight of centre O'Brien being helped off following the next phase was a further setback for Ireland.

The Irish pack solidified their scrum, though, providing the platform in the build-up to McPhillips' second successful penalty from long range, 27 minutes in.

Ireland had the better of possession leading up to the half-time, with English indiscipline at ruck time giving McPhillips another sight of goal. However, the Ulster Academy player missed a difficult 36th minute kick from distance.

Protheroe did likewise at the other end, but the white shirts flooded forward past the 40-minute mark and with prop O'Donnell seeing yellow for 'cynically' playing the ball at an English ruck, Protheroe took the three points on offer to make it 17-6 at the turnaround.

They kept the scoreboard ticking over with a Protheroe drop goal on the resumption, however the numbers were soon evened up when English openside Smith was binned for side-entry at a maul.



From then on, Ireland looked a different outfit. After a Gallagher-won lineout, the maul was set 10 metres out and Ryan spotted some space off the side to dive over for his second try in as many games. McPhillips' radar was off with the conversion from the left.

England's play was becoming scrappier and following another offside, McPhillips plunged a penalty towards the left corner. The home pack managed to disrupt the maul, but the Irish backs exploited a gap on the right as Conor O'Brien and Connon released Byrne to finish superbly in the right corner past two defenders.

Newcastle's own Connon took on the difficult touchline conversion and swung it over with aplomb, reducing the arrears to 20-18 with 54 minutes on the clock.

A TMO decision favoured Ireland as England skipper Callum Chick had a try ruled out near the right corner - it was a very marginal call - and it took some gritty defence to thwart the powerful England pack twice on the opposite side of the pitch.

With possession won back, Ireland intelligently angled their maul to open up space on the blindside for a kick downfield and the bout of English pressure was finally relieved.

Shortly afterwards, the increasingly influential Kerins sparked a lively break out to the left that saw centre Daly reach the English 22. Ireland kept themselves on the front foot and second row Ryan expertly drew in two defenders and offloaded out of the tackle for the supporting Porter to charge over from close range.

It was an excellently-worked third try from the Irish youngsters who really had the bit between their teeth. A hold-up to check for English foul play did not help place-kicker Connon who slide his attempt wide, leaving it delicately poised at 23-20.

However, Ireland maintained an infectious high work-rate, particularly the forwards, and a tremendous choke tackle from the tireless Porter and Peter Claffey helped to secure a crucial turnover in their own 22.

Playing an advantage, a splendid attack straight from a McPhillips chip and a subsequent dink out to the right from Daly almost played in winger Byrne for his second try - Ollie Thorley rescued the situation for England with a great cover tackle.

Staring at a very rare home defeat, the English side suffered a further blow when South was dismissed by referee Tual Trainini following consultation with the TMO Philippe Bonhoure.

Connon, who plays for the local Falcons, stepped up on his home pitch to give Ireland a six-point cushion and as the English errors continued to mount, Carolan's young guns - bolstered by the strong-carrying Kelvin Brown - closed out the game from a final rock-solid scrum.

ENGLAND U-20: Max Malins (Saracens); George Perkins (Saracens), Joe Marchant (Harlequins), Charlie Thacker (Leicester Tigers), Ollie Thorley (Gloucester); Mathew Protheroe (Gloucester), Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie); Tom West (Wasps), Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), Will Stuart (Wasps), Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors), George Nott (Sale Sharks), Archie White (Harlequins), Sam Smith (Worcester Warriors), Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons) (capt).

Replacements: Curtis Langdon (London Irish), Jake Pope (Sale Sharks), Billy Keast (Exeter Chiefs), Stan South (Harlequins), Jack Willis (Wasps), Jamie Shillcock (Worcester Warriors), Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs), Paolo Odogwu (Leicester Tigers).

IRELAND U-20: Jack Power (UCD/Leinster); Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster), Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster), Jimmy O'Brien (UCD/Leinster), Conor O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster); Johnny McPhillips (Queen's University/Ulster), Stephen Kerins (Sligo/Connacht); Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster), Conan O'Donnell (Sligo/Connacht), Peter Claffey (Galwegians/Connacht), James Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster) (capt), Cillian Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht), Will Connors (UCD/Leinster), Greg Jones (UCD/Leinster).

Replacements: Shane Fenton (Young Munster/Munster), James Bollard (Dublin University/Leinster), Ben Betts (Young Munster/Munster), Sean O'Connor (Cashel/Munster), Kelvin Brown (Shannon/Munster), John Poland (Cork Constitution/Munster), Brett Connon (Newcastle Falcons/Exiles), Matthew Byrne (Terenure College/Leinster).

Referee: Tual Trainini (France)

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