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Ireland U20s can be proud despite an eighth-placed finish, insists Ryan

Ireland U20s 17 New Zealand U20s 40

Striding on: Ireland’s Cormac Foley makes a break
Striding on: Ireland’s Cormac Foley makes a break
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland Under-20s finished in eighth place at the World Championships after losing 40-17 to New Zealand in Rosario on Saturday.

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The 2019 Grand Slam winners have beaten the Baby Blacks just once at this level but, if anything, the defeat was their tournament in a microcosm.

There was plenty of promise during the spell that yielded their only points of the afternoon - including a breathtaking score by Ryan Baird - but either side they gave the appearance of a team for whom the attrition of a long tournament was taking its toll. The Kiwis, who no matter what were assured of their worst ever finish at this tournament, blitzed their opponents early and raced into a 26-0 lead inside 20 minutes. Etene Nanai Seturo crossed twice, while Oliver Norris and Leicester Fainga'anuku bagged one apiece with Rivez Reihana adding three conversions for good measure.

At that stage, a cricket score looked a distinct possibility but, not dissimilar to their spirited showing in defeat against England last time out, Ireland instead offered resistance.

Josh Wycherly and Dylan Tierney Martin scored either side of the turn as Noel McNamara's men cut loose and started to throw the ball around.

With Ulster's Angus Kernohan, who was joined by his provincial team-mate Azur Allison on the hour mark, making a few lengthy scampers up field, it was an exhilarating passage ultimately capped off by Baird's gallop for the line.

With the deficit cut to nine points, if Ireland scored next it would have been game on, but, against tiring opposition, it was New Zealand who ultimately pulled away through tries from Tamaiti Williams and Shilo Klein. Captain Charlie Ryan was frustrated his side had left themselves in such an early hole.

"I'm disappointed with that last game," he admitted.

"We just didn't show up for the first half and when you go down against the All Blacks you lose.

"I'm proud of that second-half performance from the lads - we really dug in.

"I'm proud of the whole tournament. A lot of stuff didn't go our way but we're really proud of the way the lads got stuck in and gave it their all.

"I couldn't ask for more from the lads."

Later in the day, France made it back-to-back titles by beating Australia in the final, while Scotland suffered relegation having lost to Fiji.

• Ulster's Marcell Coetzee has been handed a World Cup lifeline by South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus.

The 28-times capped back rower intimated in May that there had been no recent contact between himself and Erasmus, believing the former Munster coach was set to stick with the same panel he had used during his first year in charge of the Springboks.

Yesterday however Coetzee, who has not played for the national side in almost four years, was in Pretoria for an 'alignment and conditioning camp.'

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