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Misery for Ireland as comeback proves to be all in vain

Under-20 rugby: England 30 Ireland 23

Charging through: Ben Healy on the attack for Irish U20s
Charging through: Ben Healy on the attack for Irish U20s
Jonathan Bradley

BY Jonathan Bradley

It was a case of third time lucky for England against Ireland at the Under-20 World Championships in Argentina yesterday.

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Ireland had won this fixture in February during their Six Nations Grand Slam campaign and then again during the pool stages here but in the third leg of the seasonal trilogy their depleted squad suffered late heartbreak having come back from 14 points down. Despite Ireland having all the momentum, and England ending the game with Rusiate Tuima in the sin bin, it was the 2016 winners who scored with the clock red to seal a 30-23 win.

When these sides met in Santa Fe to start the competition last week, conditions were idyllic with temperatures in the mid-20s. It was cold and wet yesterday, however, with the rain that had earlier led to games being briefly suspended having made a real mess of the pitch in Rosario.

As such a forwards battle ensued and, despite spending 20 minutes with 14 men in the first half after a pair of yellow cards, that was always likely to suit England given the losses endured up front before and during this tournament by Noel McNamara's men.

After Ted Hill had been binned for a tip tackle just seven minutes in, the sides would only trade penalties over the next 10 minutes, Ben Healy putting Ireland in the lead before Josh Hodge countered.

And when Kai Owen saw yellow for a high hit, after Healy had edged Ireland back in front, England scored 10 unanswered points with a man down, Hodge notching another penalty before scoring and converting a try to bring his and England's first-half tally to 13 points.

He and Healy again traded strikes from the tee in the second half before England seized a two-score advantage. After a powerful forward effort, No.8 Sam Maunder crashed over.

It was Ireland's turn to fall foul of the referee then, otherwise impressive hooker Dylan Tierney Martin ordered to reflect for 10 minutes on a high tackle of his own.

Ireland had hardly been short of ball, though, and after a long period camped on England's line when they eventually went wide, Jonathan Wren was in to score. Just one minute later, the game was suddenly, and surprisingly, level, when Brian Deeney charged down a box-kick and streaked home. England would, however, have the last laugh.

Ireland, who started Ulster's Azur Allison yesterday and brought Angus Kernohan off the bench, will now meet New Zealand on Saturday to determine who finishes in seventh and eighth.

The Kiwis will finish outside the top six for the first time in this competition after a missed kick at the death saw them lose to Wales, while the final will be between France and Australia.

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