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Junior World Championships: England fightback stuns the Irish

By John Fallon

Ireland 25 England 33: There was heartbreak for Ireland in Treviso last night as they were pipped in the closing stages of a thrilling Under-20 Junior World Championship opener.

NO LOSING BONUS POINT AS IRELAND LET IT SLIP AWAYHeartbreak: Ireland’s Under-20 players can’t hide their dejection (left) after losing their opening |Junior World Championship clash to England last night as Ben Ransom (above) gives the Irish a |run for their money INPHOBY JOHN FALLON

JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Ireland twice came from difficult positions to hit the front for the first time with just five minutes remaining, but the Six Nations grand slam winners recovered to snatch victory.

Mike Ruddock's men trailed by 13-0 after less than a quarter of the game and then when they hit back to reduce the margin to two minutes shortly after the restart, England struck for another try to go 23-16 in front.

Ireland, dominating throughout the field, responded magnificently and two penalties from replacement out-half James McKinney reduced the margin before he edged Ireland in front for the first time with five minutes remaining.

But, crucially, Ireland failed to retain possession and England struck with George Ford edging them back in front.

And there was worse to follow in the final play of the match when England got their fourth try to secure a bonus point and in the process rob Ireland of a losing bonus point which could yet prove crucial.

Ireland got off to the worst possible start and were 7-0 behind in less than two minutes, with England working the ball from a scrum in the left corner across the field for winger Andy Short to dive over.

Ford landed the touchline conversion and with Ireland coughing up possession in a mistake-ridden opening, Ford landed a brace of penalties to put England 13-0 in front at the end of the first quarter.

But Ireland regrouped and with Luke Marshall superb in the centre and Jordi Murphy, Dominic Gallagher and Eoin McKeon mopping up in the backrow, Ruddock's men got back into the game.

Paddy Jackson, having been off target with his first two penalties, found the range after 29 minutes before Andrew Conway broke for a bizarre but superbly executed try when an attempted clearance blasted off the back of the head of England skipper Alex Gray and fell kindly for the Leinster winger who dashed from his 22 to touch down under the posts, with Jackson adding the points to make it 13-10 after 38 minutes.

However, Ireland undid a lot of that good work when they lost their own lineout five metres from their line and England recycled for Henry Thomas to get their second try.

Jackson pulled back a penalty before the break and then landed another three minutes after it but, once again, undermined their efforts when England tighthead Mako Vunipola burst through for their third try after 61 minutes to go 23-16 in front.

Once again Ireland refused to die with full-back Craig Gilroy, replacements JJ Hanrahan and McKinney leading the charge as they clawed their way back before hitting the front in the dying moments only to be denied by that late England rally.

Coach Mike Ruddock said afterwards he was proud of the Irish effort and that they would now turn their attentions to South Africa on Tuesday.

“It was disappointing to lose in the end, very disappointing, but having said that I was very proud of the players, I thought they were fantastic on the night,” he said.

“And don't forget this is a team that put 40 points on Ireland in the Six Nations and put 40 points on us in the World Cup last year. We took them right down to the wire, so we are not too far away at all, it is massive progression from my team and I am very proud of them.”

England: B Ransom, A Short, E Daly, R Mills, J Joseph, G Ford, C Cook, M Vunipola, M Haywood, H Thomas, J Launchbury, C Matthews, M Kvesic, M Everard, A Gray. Replacements: O Farrell (for Mills 42), M Yarde (for Joseph 52), S Jones (for Everard 55) S Jones (for Cook 61).

Ireland: C Gilroy, A Conway, B Macken, L Marshall, A Boyle, P Jackson, K Marmion, J Tracy, N Annett, T Furlong, M Kearney, I Henderson, J Murphy, D Gallagher, E McKeon. Replacements: JJ Hanrahan (for Marshall 59), J McKinney (for Jackson 59), D Qualter (for Kearney 62), S Buckley.

Belfast Telegraph

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