Too many mistakes and inexperience at this level marred Scotland under-20's first outing of this 6 Nations, when they went down 34-7 to their Irish counterparts in Athlone.
Stormy weather, which had abated in the hours leading up to the match, struck back with a vengeance come kick-off as torrential rain, wind and finally snow sought to test the players' worth. The Irish coped better with the conditions, and the pressure, as the game became increasingly scrappy, producing more spills and fewer thrills.
Head coach Sean Lineen said: "We were up against a pretty polished outfit, playing at a high level and the boys found out what we meant by intensity.
"We were still the architects of our own failure, though, and made a lot of errors at set-piece. The players are just not used to playing at this level so that's an area we've got to work hard on.They made us pay for our multitide of mistakes.
There were positives in the performance as Lineen added: "I think we spent the first 18 minutes of the second half in our 22 - we couldn't get out but we never stopped tackling. Ben Vellacott scored a very good try at the end, I thought the wingers did well and the chasing game was strong. They never stopped trying, they never gave up and that was the main thing."
After a cautious start from both sides, the Irish began to force mistakes and were two penalties ahead after 15 minutes, through the boot of stand-off Ross Byrne. That sparked a retort from the Scots, with a driving maul that saw Buchan Richardson (no 8) held up just feet from the Irish line. Scotland won the penalty and stand-off Ben Chalmers had his first chance to put points on the board but the kick drifted wide.
Irish pressure soon let to the score which had been threatening, just short of the half-hour mark, sparked by a scrum and a series of pick-and goes which put eventual man-of the match, Jack O'Donoghue over for the try, duly converted by Byrne. With half time becoming, Ireland scored again, Timmins claiming the try, converted again by Byrne, to make put Ireland 20-0 ahead at half time.
The only change to the line-up as the team ran out for the second half was Jack Cosgrove on for James Malcolm, though captain Tommy Spinks left the field shortly after, briefly substituted by Neil irvine-Hess in a blood replacement.
As the deluge from the sky continued, conditions deteriorated and both sides were guilty of a series of spilled balls and slip-ups. The Scots fought back, however, fresh legs from further replacements - Young, Carmichael, Irvine-Hess and Vellacott all on within five minutes of the 60-minute mark - helping the scrum and set-piece. Progress into the Irish half was brief, however, as O'Donoghue saw the gap and completed his brace, Byrne adding the extras. Another converted try - from Heffernan and Byrne respectively - put Ireland 34-0 ahead.
Scotland, to their credit, never gave up and with Ireland on the break again and threatening to score, an unexpected turnover ball was seized on by replacement scrum half, Ben Vellacott. Stand-off Ben Cooper, who had replaced Ben Chalmers three minutes earlier, sealed the conversion as the final whistle sounded on a 34-7 win to the Irish.
The Scots face England at Netherdale next Friday (7 February, k/o 7.30pm) - the English were also defeated this evening, in the opening game away to France. In tonight's other match, Italy went down to Wales in Colwyn Bay.
(Photos courtesy: Andrew Surma)
|England U20||67||v||7||Wales U20|
|Scotland U20||13||v||18||France U20|
|Ireland U20||18||v||0||Italy U20|
|England U20||33||v||9||Ireland U20|
|Wales U20||10||v||16||France U20|