Home Rugby Heroic 14-Man Ireland Fall Short Against Six-Try Australia

Heroic 14-Man Ireland Fall Short Against Six-Try Australia

Australia 45

Ireland 17

Ireland played out a tense and physical battle with Australia in the World Rugby U20 Championships in Santa Fe but fell short with 14 men against the Junior Wallabies.

It could have been very different for Noel McNamara’s side who Ryan Baird sent-off after 15 minutes and had Australia under pressure for 45 minutes before heading into the final quarter of the game in front. However, tiredness took over as the Junior Wallabies ran over three tries in five minutes followed by two more to seal a strong win.

Australia started the brighter of the two sides with Will Harrison kicking the first three points of the game after five minutes. It was clear from the outset that this was going to be a bruising encounter as the two sides went head-to-head with neither willing to give an inch. Eventually, it boiled over as Semsi Tupou was yellow carded for a high tackle on Ireland’s Josh Hodnett.

More drama unfolded five minutes later when a huge call was made by the officials to give Irish second-row, Ryan Baird, a red card for a neck-high tackle on out-half, Harrison.

Harrison missed the resulting penalty to extend Australia’s lead, however, the Junior Wallabies were not to be denied minutes later from open play as Sione Tui ran over in the corner for the game’s opening try.

It was a beautiful move from the Junior Wallabies started by Harrison who spotted a gap and broke free before off-loading to Harry Wilson who spotted his back-row partner and team captain, Fraser McReight, who put Tui through in the corner.

Harrison beautifully converted the kick from the touchline to stretch Australia’s lead to 10-0 as Ireland looked under serious pressure playing with 14-men.

However, this young side showed great character in the closing stages of the first half outlining exactly why they were Grand Slam champions earlier this year.

As the first half drew to a close Craig Casey showed everyone why he’s very highly rated in Munster when he intelligently spun off the back of a scrum and force his way over for Ireland’s first try. It was a contentious decision as to whether Casey grounded the ball or not but the TMO wasn’t able to confirm otherwise meaning the referee’s on-field decision stood.

Jake Flannery sent the conversion through the posts to leave Ireland just three points behind at the half (10-7).

They may have been a man-down but you would not have thought it by the way Ireland started the second half. Ireland were camped in the Junior Wallabies 22 for the first ten minutes of the half with 86% possession, however, amazingly they failed to convert at all which seemed to hand the momentum back to Australia.

The Junior Wallabies were then punished for over-celebrating as the referee reversed a penalty decision giving Flannery the chance to level things up before Ireland took the lead two minutes later following a scintillating individual try by Stewart Moore who broke four tackles en route to the try-line.

Ben Healy had come in for Flannery and made no mistake with the conversion to put Ireland 17-10 in front.

As the game entered the final quarter, Australia hit back following another beautiful counter-attacking move involving McReight and Tupou before full-back, Isaac Lucas went over. Harrison then equalised from the conversion.

The momentum was clearly with the Junior Wallabies now as Ireland seemed to tire following twenty minutes of sustained pressure with a man down when Lucas broke free once more before putting it on a plate for winger, Mark Nawwaqanitawase, to score.

It got worse for Ireland when second-row, Nick Frost, claimed the restart and ran all of 60-metres for Australia’s third try in five minutes to kill the game.

Will Harrison capped off a brilliant individual performance from himself when he ran over for Australia’s fifth try of the game before converting himself. The final blow then came from Frost who scored his second try of the game to round off the win for Australia.

So, it’s a defeat for Ireland but the game was much closer than the scoreline suggests as Noel McNamara’s side were the better side for much of the second half, however, it was too tall an ask for them to close the game out with 14 players.

About Michael Corry

Sports Journalist based in Dublin. Hit me up if you have a unique story to tell. Email: michael@punditarena.com Twitter: @Corry_10 Instagram: @Corry_10