Baby Blacks end Ireland’s U20 World Cup hopes
By Daire Walsh
THERE was disappointment for Ireland at the Under 20 World Rugby Championship last Wednesday, when they were on receiving end of a 25-3 reversal to New Zealand in their final Pool C game at Stadio Zaffanella.
Thanks to victories for both sides over Argentina and Scotland, the winner of this clash knew that they would emerge as pool winners, and book their place in the semi-final of the competition.
This was the second encounter between these teams in the space of 12 months, as the Baby Blacks had entertained their Irish counterparts in last year’s third/fourth place play-off. New Zealand secured a 45-23 triumph on that occasion, but they found themselves staring into a three-point deficit by the 16th minute of play.
It proved to be quite an emotional day for Athy star Joey Carbery, who was playing against the country of his birth. The promising out-half lived in the southern hemisphere until the age of 11, but having missed a brace of earlier efforts, he eventually slotted a penalty between the posts.
New Zealand weathered this storm effectively, though, and courtesy of a try by Tevita Li (as well a six-point haul from Otere Black), Nigel Carolan’s men were staring into an eight-point deficit (11-3) at the mid-way point in the action.
This left Ireland with a mountain to climb after the restart, and the loss of scrum-half Nick McCarthy to a shoulder injury was a further hammer blow, and with Ross Byrne and Athy youngster Jeremy Loughman also absent from the initial squad selection, the hand of the Irish management team has certainly been weakened.
Naas’ Billy Dardis made his eighth consecutive start for the U20s at full-back in 2015, but owing to further scores in the second-half from Li and Blake Gibson, Ireland entered into a 5th-8th play-off with Wales yesterday evening (Monday).
However, the U20s weren’t the only Irish side on international duty this weekend, as the Emerging Ireland squad also kick-started their Tbilisi Cup campaign against Emerging Italy on Saturday. This competition offers a platform for fringe players to showcase their talents, and thanks to tries from Eoin Griffin, Andrew Conway, Stuart McCloskey and Tiernan O’Halloran, Ireland registered a 25-0 triumph.
Meanwhile, Adam Byrne was once again in fine scoring form, when the Ireland Wolfhounds achieved a second-place finish at the GB7s Tour Final at Colwyn Bay on the same day. The pacey winger from Naas recorded two tries in a decisive 43-0 triumph over Welsh Charitables in their opening game of the tournament, but despite reaching their first-ever GB7s decider, they ultimately came up short on a scoreline of 29-24 (after extra-time) to Samurai in a thrilling showpiece encounter.
Finally, it was an eventful weekend for the Ireland Women’s 7s team at the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series tournament in Kazan, Russia. Kilcullen’s Jenny Murphy was ruled out with a shoulder injury, but despite exiting the main competition at the quarter-final stage to England, Ireland bounced back to secure the Plate title at the expense of the Netherlands.