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Ireland Come From Behind To Secure First Grand Slam Since 2007

Wales U20 17 Ireland U20 26

Ireland secured a first U20 Six Nations Grand Slam since 2007 as they came out on top of a see-saw battle with Wales in Colwyn Bay.

Wales dominated the opening minutes of the game through a series of lineout mauls deep in Ireland’s 22 and although Noel McNamara’s side repelled many of these attacks, the pressure finally told when yet another Welsh setpiece was sent wide.

A lovely backline move saw Tomi Lewis pick up the ball on the wing and he used his space to get around Shannon fullback Jake Flannery.

Lewis managed to offload back inside to Aneurin Owen who was able to cross the whitewash. Cai Evans knocked over the conversion to give Wales an early 7-0 lead.

Ireland responded by going agonisingly close on two occasions.

Scott Penny almost got Ireland back in the game but the TMO ruled that there was no obvious grounding from the Leinster man’s powerful carry. From the resulting 5m scrum, Sean French took the ball on at pace and he powered towards the line where his grounding was adjudged to have gone forward by the TMO.

Both sides continued to make unforced errors which stemmed any flow to the game but it was Wales who went further in front when Evans landed a long-range penalty as the clock approached the half-hour mark.

Ireland looked to be going in at the break behind by 10 points but McNamara’s side put together a superb move to give them a huge boost before they departed the pitch for the changing rooms.

Angus Kernohan produced a scintillating run on the far touchline to bring play deep into the Welsh half. The ball was eventually moved to the other side of the pitch where Scott Penny offloaded in the tackle to set free Jonathan Wren who stepped back inside to cross the whitewash and touch down. Healy converted to put just three points between the sides at the break.

Ireland U20 Grand Slam

Ireland got off to the best possible start when they returned for the second half when Dylan Tierney-Martin picked up the ball from a collapsed maul to ghost through a gap in the Welsh defence and touch down in the corner. Healy converted from the touchline to give Ireland a 10-14 lead.

It was a let-off for Ireland just minutes later when Evans, who had been superb with the tee up until this point, missed a shot at goal which would have left just one point between the teams.

Ireland looked to have scored their third try of the game when a superb Sean French break saw the Cork Constitution man bring play up to the Welsh line before he offloaded in the tackle for Kernohan to score. However, the ball from Liam Turner to French was forward and a superb effort was for nothing.

Ireland U20 Grand Slam

That forward pass would come back to bite Ireland as Scarlets openside Jac Morgan touched down under the posts after he received an offload from replacement Ryan Conbeer who showed blistering pace and footwork to bamboozle the Irish defence. Evans converted to give Wales a three-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.

Wales won another turnover which allowed Evans an opportunity to extend his side’s lead but his long-range effort drifted wide of the posts.

Replacement scrum-half Colm Reilly got Ireland’s third try of the game when he took advantage of some lax Welsh defending. An innocuous looking ruck was seized upon by Reilly when he identified no Welsh pillar defender. He picked the ball up to blaze through the gap and his pace allowed him to get to the line before he was tackled. Flannery, who moved to outhalf in the latter stages of the second half, hit the post with his conversion so Ireland had a two-point lead with eight minutes remaining.

Ireland managed to hold onto the ball for the final few minutes and they secured the result and a first Grand Slam since 2007 when Thomas Clarkson crashed over from close range.

About Sean McMahon

Sean is Head of Pundit Arena Rugby. Contact him on Twitter here: