Ireland kicked off their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign with a great result, they secured an impressive 42-26 win over England, as their Six Nations rivals paid the price for their own indiscipline.
Aaron Hinkley and Manu Vunipola had both already been sin-binned before replacement hooker Alfie Barbeary was sent off for a dangerous tackle with just over 13 minutes remaining, meaning England played for more than half an hour with 14 men.
But that should not detract from an excellent performance from Ireland, who made light of their 11th-place seeding to come from behind three times, scoring 21 points in the final quarter to secure only a second U20 Championship win over their rivals.
England had made a lightning start, going in front via a Vunipola penalty before Ollie Sleightholme finished off a good team move to score the game’s first try in the right corner. Vunipola added the conversion to give his side a 10-0 lead with less than 10 minutes gone but Ireland reacted well to hit back within two minutes as Jake Flannery spotted a gap to score.
The centre spotted Ollie Fox had rolled the ball back into the in-goal area at the breakdown and dove at it to touch down. Following consultation with TMO Santiago Borsani the try was awarded, and Flannery’s conversion gave the Irish a 14-13 lead.
It would remain that way at the break, although England trotted off with only 14 men after flanker Hinkley was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Angus Kernohan. Despite their numerical disadvantage it was England who struck first in the second period, retaking the lead with a Vunipola penalty before Sleightholme scored his second try.
Vunipola was then sin-binned for a high tackle on Iwan Hughes 10 minutes into the second half, a transgression that was immediately punished by David McCann’s converted score. However, England rallied immediately to edge into a five-point lead via a well-worked try that Tom Seabrook finished in the left corner.
Ireland, and McCann, struck again on the hour mark as momentum began to swing in their direction. Seven minutes later, Barbeary – only just on – lifted John Hodnett and gave referee Damon Murphy little choice but to issue a red card after consulting with the TMO. The Irish capitalised fully, scoring converted tries through Ben Healy and Hodnett to claim victory and deny England even a losing bonus point.
Ireland captain Charlie Ryan said: “We’re going to enjoy it today, review it and look forward to Australia. I’m really proud of everyone today, they put in a huge shift.”
England captain Fraser Dingwall said: “We’re incredibly frustrated after that. I think after [half-time] we got the upper hand and we were hoping to take it away from them. Obviously today discipline is something that’s let us down, it has had a massive knock-on effect on the game. But it’s not the only area of the game that’s let us down.”
TIME LINE: 2 minutes – England penalty: Manu Vunipola – 3-0; 8 mins – England try: Ollie Sleightholme – 8-0; conversion: Manu Vunipola – 10-0; 11 mins – Ireland try: Jake Flannery – 10-5; conversion: Jake Flannery – 10-7; 25 mins – England penalty: Manu Vunipola – 13-7; 26 mins – Ireland try: Stewart Moore – 13-12; conversion: Jake Flannery – 13-14; 33 mins – England yellow card: Aaron Hinkley; Half-time – England 13 Ireland 14; 42 mins – England penalty: Manu Vunipola – 16-14; 45 mins – England try: Ollie Sleightholme – 21-14; conversion: missed by Manu Vunipola – 21-14; 49 mins – England yellow card: Manu Vunipola; 50 mins – Ireland try: David McCann – 21-19; conversion: Ben Healy – 21-21; 52 mins – England try: Tom Seabrook – 26-21; conversion: missed by Tom de Glanville – 26-21; 59 mins – Ireland try: David McCann – 26-26; conversion: Ben Healy – 26-28; 66 mins – England red card: Alfie Barbeary; 66 mins – Ireland try: Ben Healy – 26-33; conversion: Ben Healy – 26-35; 74 mins – Ireland try: John Hodnett – 26-40; conversion: Ben Healy – 26-42; Full-time – England 26 Ireland 42
ENGLAND U-20: Tom de Glanville (Bath); Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints) (capt), Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), Tom Seabrook (Gloucester); Manu Vunipola (Saracens), Ollie Fox (Bath); Olly Adkins (Gloucester), Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), Joel Kpoku (Saracens), Alex Coles (Northampton Saints), Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), Tom Willis (Wasps).
Replacements used: Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons) for Vunipola (16-24 mins, temp sub), Arron Reed (Sale Sharks) for Seabrook (54), Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs) for Heyes, Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs) for Willis, Hodge for de Glanville, Alfie Barbeary (Wasps/Bloxham School) for Dolly (all 61), Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs) for Coles, Dolly for Sleightholme, Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors) for Adkins (all 66).
IRELAND U-20: Iwan Hughes (Ballynahinch/Ulster); Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster), Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster), Stewart Moore (Malone/Ulster), Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster); Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster); Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht), Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster), David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster), John Hodnett (UCC/Munster), Azur Allison (Ballymena/Ulster).
Replacements used: Ronan Watters (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) for Allison (24 mins), Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster) for Hughes, Sean French (Cork Constitution/Munster) for Moore (both 49), Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster) for Wycherley (67), Declan Adamson (Clontarf/Leinster) for Tierney-Martin, Ciaran Booth (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby) for McCann, Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht) for Baird (all 73), Charlie Ward (Clontarf/Leinster) for Clarkson (78).
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)