This is a copy of a match report carried out for England Rugby. It can be viewed here on their homepage http://www.englandrugby.com/news/england-counties-u18-lose-ireland/
- Ireland U18s edge out England Counties U18s at home in Ashbourne RFC
- Enthralling match played out despite poor weather conditions
England Counties U18s lost another very close encounter in the second match of their “Tri-Nations” series in Dublin.
The first half of this absorbing game was dominated by quality placekicking from both sides. Fly half Sam Hollingsworth was cool under pressure throughout and his three successful kicks gave England a 9-6 halftime lead. Ireland started strongly in the second half though and converted an early penalty to tie things up at 9-9.
Hollingsworth’s influence on the game was not just limited to kicking, however, as he smoothly side-stepped an Irish defender from 5 metres out to touch down for England’s try. It was the final act of a quality team move that showed a real ability to adapt. Initially England attempted a maul from a lineout on the Irish 22. This was rebuffed, however, as the Irish drove them back 10 metres. Rather than panic though, England remained calm and gradually regained that ground and more by recycling through the phases, chipping away at the Irish defence. With the hard yards gained, England spread it out wide which led to Hollingsworth’s try in the 46th minute.
Ireland to their credit though, came right back at England and scored an equalizing try in the 54th minute. They too had employed a maul with one of their forwards peeling off of it to score. Both sides missed their conversions. Winger Thomas Carleton was then able to outstandingly field the ensuing kick off, which gave the impetus back to England in this back and forth exchange. Ireland were forced to commit a penalty around their 10 metre line to stop this attack. Hollingsworth converted to give England a 17-14 lead. Ultimately though, Ireland were to pip England in the very last minute with a dramatic try delighting the sizable home crowd.
Maul gives England platform throughout
England understandably decided to employ a maul on several occasions throughout this match that was played in damp, cold conditions.
Ironically, the one time it did not gain any ground was in the build up to their try. Otherwise it proved very effective.
England can feel proud of defensive effort
For much of the second half Ireland were camped out in England’s territory as they knocked on the door. Right up until the very last minute they were kept at bay thanks to some passionate but well-drilled defending.
In an extremely tight contest England can take heart on how for large parts of the game, Ireland struggled to get past the gain line. Head Coach Giles Heagerty refused to be too downbeat afterwards as he could see a lot positives. He stressed that he was “hugely proud of the boys and all their efforts not just over the two internationals and the time they’ve been away but over the course of the whole campaign.” He also said that the key thing to remember is that “we’ve always maintained that whilst everybody wants to win, that this whole process is about learning and development and everybody’s learnt a huge amount.”