Scotland U20 were edged out in a closely fought match against Ireland in the opening round of the 2017 Six Nations Championship.
On a cold, wet night at Broadwood Stadium the home side dominated large periods of territory and possession but couldn’t quite pull away from a dogged Irish side.
Scotland led from the opening score to the 72nd minute but paid ultimately for lapses in composure in attack, which should have secured the win.
The home side started with great purpose winning a couple of early penalties and from an attacking lineout in the Irish 22 centre Cameron Hutchison crashed over from short range on his U20 debut to score. Josh Henderson slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead on eight minutes.
Scotland’s game was built around a solid scrum, secure lineout and effective driving maul for much of the opening half, which they dominated in territory and possession.
Josh Henderson at fly-half for Scotland kicked well out of hand and it was his brace of penalties against a swirling wind which gave the hosts a deserved 13-6 half time lead.
His opposite number Johnny McPhillips was at the centre of Ireland’s occasional attacking play and his penalties kept Ireland in range at the break.
Scotland U20 were aiming to secure three home wins in succession against Ireland which had been in place since their last defeat to the visitors in Inverness in 2011.
This was despite three recent defeats away in last year’s Six Nations and at the World Rugby U-20 Championships.
Scotland fielded a largely new team with several players moving out of the age group from last season with only eight of the matchday 23 experienced at this level before.
Among the new faces were winger Ross McCann of BT Premiership leaders Melrose who has been scoring tries consistently this season and looked sharp tonight.
Also joining him making their U20 debuts were centres Cameron Hutchinson from Currie and Craig Pringle of Stirling County.
Captain and lock Callum Hunter-Hill has played in the Guinness PRO12 this season for Glasgow Warriors against Zebre and was bringing his experience from U20 last year to the role. He led the lineout excellently and carried frequently.
In the back-row Matt Fagerson was busy, carrying well when he moved to number 8 in place of Tom Dodd and putting in some vital work defensively too.
Ireland started the second half giving Scotland a taste of their own medicine with a deep kick into the Scot’s 22 and a driving maul off the lineout which was finished off by hooker Tadgh McElroy and converted by McPhillips to level the score at 13-13 on 42 minutes.
Scotland added two further Henderson penalties to go out to 19-13 on the hour mark and again had the better of the possession and territory for large parts of the second half.
Ireland though were clinical when it mattered and their round the corner forward drives always gained ground.
Both teams struggled for continuity as substitutions were made and wet conditions with ball in hand saw several key turnovers or possession lost in contact.
Eventually Ireland took the lead through a long phase of possession in the Scotland half that bore down on the home side’s line and finally crossed by flanker Paul Boyle inside the last 10 minutes. McPhillips maintained his 100% record with the boot to provide the crucial conversion and a one point lead on 72 minutes for the visitors.
A late Josh Henderson penalty just inside the Irish half fell short on 76 minutes and Ireland had their win.
Speaking after the match Scotland Head Coach Sean Lineen was philosophical about the team’s first match together, which he felt generated a lot of positives.
“It was a game we could have won, and maybe should have won, but they are learning, they are young lads and maybe lacked a little composure a key times.
The boys created so many opportunities and they will learn from it. There were a lot of good things but we didn’t convert pressure into points and that’s the tale of the tape. Now need to dust ourselves down and get ready for France next weekend.”
Final Score Scotland 19 – Ireland 20
|Scotland U20||38||v||17||Italy U20|
|England U20||33||v||5||Scotland U20|
|Scotland U20||34||v||65||Wales U20|
|France U20||36||v||8||Scotland U20|
|Scotland U20||19||v||20||Ireland U20|