Ireland 38-34 Italy
Ireland’s Under-20s had to hang on to claim a 38-34 victory over Italy at Donnybrook, despite having a man advantage and controlling the game for long periods.
The warning signs were there from early on for Noel McNamara’s side as they were caught cold in the opening minutes of the game.
While many spectators were still taking their seats, Italy’s Tommaso Coppo made a clever interception to run in unopposed and touch down for the game’s opening try.
Antonio Rizzi missed the conversion and Ireland were level within minutes after a fine passing move involving Tommy O’Brien and Peter O’Sullivan set James McCarthy free on the right wing before he cut inside to go over.
The drama continued on nine minutes when Jacopo Bianchi upended Ireland second row Jack Dunne in the challenge, turning Dunne 180 degrees and dropping him on his back, leaving the referee with no choice but to produce a red card.
With the advantage of an extra-man, Ireland cut loose and ran up the score with Hugh O’Sullivan and Cormac Daly both claiming tries in quick succession with Harry Byrne converting.
Rizzi drilled over an Italian penalty to reduce the deficit to 19-8 but McCarthy claimed his second try of the evening with a wonderful kick and chase, catching the ball in the air and touching down. Byrne converted to push Ireland’s lead to 16 points.
Peter Sullivan then bagged Ireland’s fourth try of the half to put Ireland 31-8 in front but the home side were caught napping towards the end of the half, allowing Niccolo Cannone to go over from close range.
Perhaps stung by that late first half try, Ireland came sprinting out of the blocks in the second half and Jack Aungier powered his way over the try line with Byrne converting, but that would be the last time the home side scored.
Damiano Mazza and Rizzi both punished Irish mistakes to cross the line before Tommy O’Brien was denied a try after the referee ruled that there had been a foot in touch during the build-up.
Despite being a man down, Italy continued to push in the closing stages and got their reward when replacement Edoardo Iachizzi bundled his way over, with Rizzi converting to reduce the Irish lead to four points.
Thankfully, the visitors ran out of time and while Ireland took the points, plenty of questions will be asked about their second-half performance.