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Ulster ace Moore's magic in vain for Ireland U20s

Australia 45 Ireland 17

Hero’s return: Ruan Pienaar is back at his family home in Belfast amid speculation of an Ulster coaching role
Hero’s return: Ruan Pienaar is back at his family home in Belfast amid speculation of an Ulster coaching role
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

A brilliant solo try from Ulster's Stewart Moore couldn't prevent the Ireland Under-20s from falling to Australia on Saturday, leaving the semi-final hopes of Noel McNamara's men hanging by a thread.

Ireland were forced to play for an hour of the game with 14 men after Ryan Baird was shown a red card for a high tackle on Wallaby out-half Will Harrison.

Ireland, who beat England with a bonus-point to start the competition last Tuesday, stayed in the game though, and remarkably took a 17-10 lead through Moore's second score of the tournament.

The Malone centre, who featured for Ulster in last summer's pre-season friendlies before enduring an injury-hit campaign, picked the ball up following a seven-man effort from the Irish scrum and showed a brilliant blend of brawn and guile to make it across the whitewash, beating five men in the process.

A powerful fend started the run before a jink inside sent him into open space.

He broke through one more tackle, before accelerating past two more Wallabies to spark huge cheers from the Argentinian locals and small band of Irish supporters in Santa Fe.

With Craig Casey having already scored since Baird's dismissal, the Six Nations Grand Slam winners were making light work of the numerical disadvantage but their lead would last just six minutes and Australia scorched clear once their opposition understandably tired.

The brilliant Isaac Lucas levelled things up around the hour mark and two more quick-fire tries, including another fine individual effort, this time from Nick Frost, left Ireland chasing things.

The one-way traffic continued though with Will Harrison, who scored twenty points on the day, bagging a try before Frost put the icing on the cake with his second late on.

Ireland's hopes of a first semi-final berth since 2016 are not over though.

First up they need to beat Italy with a bonus point on Wednesday afternoon (2.30pm), although the Azzurri will be no pushovers having given England a real scare on Saturday night.

If they can manage that, it will be a case of hoping other results go their way. Champions France beating Argentina would be a huge help, while the meeting between South Africa and New Zealand will also be crucial.

With both those teams already on 10 points, Ireland would require only one team to bank any match points, with the defeated side to ship a big score in order to make up a sizeable points difference.

Meanwhile, former Ulster hero Ruan Pienaar has left Montpellier by mutual consent.

The World Cup winning Springbok moved to the Top 14 in 2017.

The 35-year-old had previously agreed to extend his stay by a year, after a return to Ulster was explored but proved impossible, but has not featured for the French side since the tragic death of his sister in car accident back in February.

A move to the Cheetahs has previously been mooted but it is not yet known for sure if he intends to continue his playing career.

He is presently back with his family in Belfast where they have a home and inevitably there will be links to a Kingspan return, possibly in a coaching role.

"I want to thank my teammates with whom I have played for the past two seasons and all the fans," he said in a statement over the weekend.

"I wish the club every success for years to come."

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