IRELAND is now the only team that can complete the Grand Slam this season in the U-20 Six Nations Championship following their 26-0 win over Scotland at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Friday night. With France pipping England, the boys in green victory in front of another big midlands crowd means that they are the only team now with a 100% success rate.
A lovely mild if misty night ensured that conditions were near ideal for this Electric Ireland home series fixture which saw three young Buccaneers – Shane Layden, Conor Finn and Daniel Qualter – all start for Ireland. The host nation took immediate dominance of the proceedings but Patrick Jackson missed a 2nd minute penalty but, from the restart, possession was soon with Layden and the exciting fullback made some ground initially before chipping over the cover and then haring on to the bouncing ball for a wonderful solo try on the left before many spectators had taken their vantage points. Jackson was unable to convert but, after 14 minutes, following another terrific break by Layden and carried on by Foster Horan yielded a penalty and it was third time lucky for skipper Jackson with his place-kicking as he edged Ireland 8-0 ahead.
Ireland’s lead at the interval should really have been a lot more clearcut than 8-0 but two Jackson penalties in the opening seven minutes of the second half stretched the advantage to 14-0 as the winless Scots rarely threatened.
Electric Ireland Man of the Match’ Luke McGrath killed off any slight prospect of an upset when his sniping break from a scrum yielded a smartly taken 63rd minute try which Jackson converted. Shortly afterwards, Iain Henderson was stopped at an upright but Ireland continued on the offensive and Jack Conan powered over for a late try to complete the 26-0 scoreline.
Ireland were full value for this victory that perhaps should have had a more comprehensive margin. McGrath was lively and alert throughout, Layden looked like he could have been the first player to win two ‘Electric Ireland Man of the Match’ awards but not enough ball came his way in the second half and Finn was another home back who threatened when in possession. Conor Gilsenan and Henderson were prominent throughout in the forwards battle where Qualter put in a decent shift until injured on the hour mark and the front row was solid.
Ireland now top the league table with just one round of fixtures remaining, two points ahead of both England and France. It sets up a mouth-watering clash at Adams Park next Friday night when Ireland front up to the England juggernaut, kick off 8 pm with the game live on Sky Sports 2.
Shane Layden (Buccaneers/Connacht); Conor Finn (Buccaneers/Connacht), Chris Farrell (Dungannon/Ulster), J.J. Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), Foster Horan (Lansdowne/Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster) (captain), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster); Kyle McCall (Ballynahinch/Ulster), James Rael (Garryowen/Munster), Peter Reilly (Lansdowne/Leinster); Iain Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster), Daniel Qualter (Buccaneers/Connacht); Conor Gilsenan (UCD/Leinster), Aaron Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht) and Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster). Replacements:- Jordan Coghlan (UCD/Leinster) for Conneely (inj. 46 mins), Des Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster) for Reilly (57 mins), Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Qualter (inj. 61 mins), Callum O’Connell (Galwegians/Connacht) for Rael (69 mins), Cathal Marsh (Dublin University/Leinster) for Jackson (70 mins), Kieron Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht) for McGrath (70 mins), Jake Cawley (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for McCall (74 mins) and Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for Hanrahan (74 mins).
Tommy Allan (Western Province); Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh/Edinburgh Accies), Mark Bennett (Clermont Auvergne), Finn Russell (Falkirk), Michael Crawley (Boroughmuir); Harry Leonard (Edinburgh), Matt Torrance (Ospreys); Robin Hislop (Edinburgh), George Turner (Edinburgh/Stewart’s Melville), Alex Allan (Loughborough Students); Andrew Redmayne (Dundee HSFP), Jonny Gray (Hamilton); Mitch Eadie (Bristol), Will Bordill (Sale Sharks) and Jamie Swanson (Boroughmuir). Replacements:-: Adam Sinclair (Stirling County) for Redmayne (47 mins), Murray McConnell (Glasgow Warriors/Ayr) for Torrance (54 mins), Robbie Fergusson (Ayr) for Bennett (59 mins), Russell Anderson (Gala) for Turner (60 mins), Callum Reid (Edinburgh Accies) for Swanson (65 mins), Tom Steven (Glasgow Hawks) for Crawley (65 mins), Gavin Robertson (Dundee HSFP) for Allan (70 mins) and Jamie Bhatti (Stirling County) for Hislop (73 mins).
Referee:- Mathieu Raynal (France).