Ireland secured a five-try win over Italy in their final Pool B game in the U20 World Championships but it remains to be seen if the victory was enough to secure the side a place in the semi-finals.
Noel McNamara’s side had the bonus-point wrapped up in the 30th minute following tries from Michael Milne, Cormac Foley, Azur Allison and Rob Russell. However, it was far from straight-forward as tries either side of half-time saw Italy roar their way back into contention.
Ireland will have to wait until the conclusion of the day’s other games to learn their fate.
They showed serious intent from the off-set with out-half, Ben Healy, repeatedly kicking for territory. After five minutes of sustained pressure on the Italian line, Michael Milne touched down for the game’s opening try despite their scrum being put under huge pressure by their opponents.
The breakdown was a highly contested area and Italy gained the upper hand in the early stages, twice turning Ireland over, however, on the second occasion, Damiano Mazza was penalised for not releasing and Ireland were handed the advantage once again. Healy made no mistake and added the three points, however, during the phase, Ireland lost Ciaran Booth to injury.
Italy were poor at the lineout and a mistimed throw over the top was stolen by Ireland who showed incredibly quick hands to move the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. Rob Russell took the ball on the sideline but sent a beautiful one-handed pass to Cormac Foley on his inside before being dragged into touch. Foley made sure to touch down between the posts leading to an easy conversion for Healy.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 12, 2019
Ireland were forced to defend just moments later when Italy attacked their line following a scrum off the back of a knock-on from the restart. The men in green were guilty of being offside and Italy again opted for the scrum. They spread the ball out wide to the awaiting Jacopo Trulla but Ireland managed to intercept the pass and Healy cleared their lines.
Italy were penalised 10 minutes from the break for not releasing and Irelands set up their next attack. Kernohan was eventually bundled into touch but substitute, Charlie Ryan, managed to steal the Italian lineout. They chose to pick and go and after a few phases, Azur Allison powered over the line with Healy stretching their lead to 24 points.
With points difference on their minds, Ireland went straight on the attack from the restart through Liam Turner and David McCann. Flannery swung the ball out to Healy who sent a sublime pass behind his back to Russell who scored the bonus-point try. The Tipperary man then added the extras but their lead was reduced when repeated efforts from the Italians eventually saw Alessandro Fusco grab his side’s opening try with the clock in the red. Paolo Garbis added the conversion to leave the half-time score 31-7.
What a talent. pic.twitter.com/oQVBLUIcgL
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 12, 2019
It was Italy who came roaring into the game at the start of the second half. A mistake from the restart saw them awarded advantage and they ran at the line through Mazza. The referee eventually awarded a penalty try when Ireland were repeatedly penalised at the breakdown. They were forced the remain on the defensive as Giulio Bertaccini and Alessandro Fusco but Healy managed to relieve the pressure with a decent clearance kick. However, in a further blow, Kernohan was sidelined with an injury.
Ireland found their groove again in the 52nd minute as a poor Italian clearance led to a clean lineout for McNamara’s side who drove for the line through Baird and David McCann. The flanker suffered an injury in the build-up to Ireland’s fifth try which Baird eventually touched down after a number of phases. Healy scored the conversion to restore a 24-point lead.
Italy maintained their domination with Ireland making uncharacteristic handling errors as they coughed up possession. To their fortune, Italy’s woes continued at the lineout gifting Ireland possession after Russell was penalised for a high tackle. Ireland were awarded a rare penalty at the scrum with 10 minutes remaining and Healy brought play deep inside the Italian half.
As the clock ticked into the final minute, Charlie Ward looked to have crossed for a tiring Ireland but he was held up. Healy’s subsequent pass to Russell was fumbled, handing possession back to Italy. Much to the relief of the Irish support, Trulla knocked the ball on and Ireland were given another opportunity. Ryan lost the ball in the breakdown right on the line and in the process of diving over the top to touch it down, Colm Reilly knocked the ball on and Italy cleared the danger.
Ireland: Jake Flannery, Angus Kernohan, Liam Turner, Cormac Foley, Rob Russell, Ben Healy, Colm Reilly; Josh Wycherley, John McKee, Michael Milne, Thomas Ahern, Ryan Baird, David McCann, Ciaran Booth, Azur Allison.
Replacements: Declan Adamson, Tom Clarkson, Charlie Ward, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Charlie Ryan, Niall Murray, Luke Clohessy, Craig Casey, Jonathan Wren, David Ryan, Aaron O’Sullivan, Max O’Reilly.
Italy: Ange Capuozzo, Jacopo Trulla, Federico Mori, Damiano Mazza, Cristian Lai, Paolo Garbis, Alessandro Fusco; Lorenzo Michelini, Niccolò Taddia, Matteo Nocera, Nicolare Stoian, Thomas Parolo, Angelo Maurizi, Davide Ruggeri, Antoine Koffi.