Scots Go Close With Second-Half Fightback

Ireland u20 17, Scotland u20 12 After a dreadful start Scotland recovered with a tremendously courageous and ferocious second-half game in the under-20 international against Ireland on an ideal evening for rugby at Dubarry Park, Athlone. Even scoring two tries to one, however, was not enough to escape defeat. Scotland were 11 points down after only 12 minutes and 0-17 behind at the interval. Down they may have been, but they were certainly not out of the contest. Their efforts after the interval would merited victory.Ireland u20 17, Scotland u20 12

After a dreadful start Scotland recovered with a tremendously courageous and ferocious second-half game in the under-20 international against Ireland on an ideal evening for rugby at Dubarry Park, Athlone. Even scoring two tries to one, however, was not enough to escape defeat.

Scotland were 11 points down after only 12 minutes and 0-17 behind at the interval. Down they may have been, but they were certainly not out of the contest. Their efforts after the interval would merited victory. Instead, they had to settle for the plaudits of their coach, Colin Robertson.

"It was a massive effort," Robertson commented. _x001C_The quality of the defence in the second half was outstanding. They played with purpose. They had a mountain to climb, and they climbed it. It was an outstanding performance, good enough to win the game._x001D_

Scotland stated their second-half intentions with their two tries in the quarter of an hour after the interval. Stevie McColl sliced clean through for the first, and Tom Bury found space to escape up the left touchline for the second.

That start to the second half was a complete contrast to the beginning of the game. Martin Dufficy's punt into the right corner put early press on the Scots, who then conceded a five-metre scrum. For it the Irish worked to create the opportunity for James Sandford to gallop through.

Dufficy failed with the conversion attempt, but he then kicked goals from penalties needlessly conceded by the Scots. Josh Brown squandered the benefit of a squint Irish throw-in, the lock penalised apparently for speaking out of turn, and then Ruaridh Jackson gifted another penalty with obstruction as Chris Cochrane chased his own kick ahead.

McColl missed a penalty to open the Scots' scoring in 15 minutes, and further misfortune was to befall the visitors when the referee missed blatant obstruction as Ireland surged to the position for Dufficy's third penalty goal. The sin-binning of Fraser McKenzie added to Scottish woes. Dufficy missed the consequent penalty, but almost immediately, with Bury offside, the home stand-off kicked his fourth goal, putting Ireland 17-0 up after 35 minutes.

Before the interval; though, the Scots had time to show what was to follow. Their cause was helped by Cochrane's sin-binning, the penalised for handling in a ruck, and the Scots ended the first half with Jonny Smart held up over the home goal-line.

Within three minutes of the restart, before Cochrane returned, the Scots profited from clean possession of the front of a lineout. A swift feed from Ross Samson, half-time replacement scrum half, allowed Jackson to release McColl off a short pass. The centre seemed to be slowed on the burst, but he had the impetus to break through for a try that he converted.

Ten minutes later, with Ireland back to full strength, Scotland exploited a lineout free kick with McColl's quick tap to send Bury up the left touchline. Only the wing can know how he found way up the narrowest space.

McColl missed the conversion. But the Scots were clearly back in the contest, and they held the upper hand for much of the remainder of the match. Jackson's control fully justified his switch to stand-off after two internationals at centre, McColl and Chris Kinloch benefited, and the back-row trio exerted their influence regardless of the flow of the game, whether forward or in defence. In that latter aspect, too, Bury pulled off a couple of massive tackles.

Around the hour mark Dufficy had a couple of chances to ease the pressure on the scoreboard, but he struck two penalties wide in quick succession, both within 30 metres' range.

In the final phase the Scots had two close-range penalty lineouts. Nothing came of them, though McKenzie seemed to be only a yard short from the first of those. The second chance broke down in midfield under Ireland's aggressive defence, and the game ended in the middle of the field with the French referee having the final say with yellow cards for Paul Ryan, Ireland's captain, and Josh Brown.

But it was a contest that did not need that ending. The referee could have left his cards in his pocket when the end of the game was only one kick to touch away.

Ireland u20 - David Kearney (Lansdowne and Leinster); Sean Scanlon (University College Cork and Munster), Eoin O'Malley (Old Belvedere and Leinster), Eamonn Sheridan (Lansdowne and Leinster), Chris Cochrane (Queen's University and Ulster); Martin Dufficy (Dublin Universality and Leinster), David Moore (Blackrock College and Leinster); Paul Karayiannis (Queen's University and Ulster), Jason Harris-Wright (Greystones and Leinster), Ben Barclay (University College Dublin and Leinster), James Sandford (Queen's University and Ulster), Eoin Sheriff (Lansdowne and Leinster), Kieran Essex (UL Bohemians and Munster), Paul Ryan (Blackrock College and Leinster) captain, Patrick Mallon (Lansdowne and Leinster). Substitutes - David Nolan (Galwegians and Connacht) for Sandford (49 minutes), Conor Cleary (Greystones and Leinster) for Sheridan (49). Not used - Stephen Douglas (Ballymena and Ulster), Stephen Archer (University College Cork and Munster), Ian Nagle (University College Cork and Munster), Ian Porter (Queen's University and Ulster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College and Leinster).
Try, Sandford; penalty goals, Dufficy (4).

Scotland u20 - Murray Allan (Loughborough University); Tom Bury (Boroughmuir and National Junior Academy), Chris Kinloch (Edinburgh Academicals and National Senior Academy), Stephen McColl (Dunfermline and National Junior Academy), Johnny Smart (Dunfermline); Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Hawks and National Senior Academy), Matthew Heeks (London Scottish); Gary Strain (Glasgow Hawks and National Junior Academy), Adrian Duncan (Stewart's-Melville FP and National Senior Academy), Lewis Niven (Edinburgh Academicals), Josh Brown (Bristol), Neale Patrick (Dunfermline), Fraser McKenzie (Heriot's and National Senior Academy), Lewis Calder (Newcastle Falcons) captain, Jonny Baird (Watsonians). Substitutes - Ross Samson (Newcastle Falcons) for Heeks (half-time), Fraser Brown (Biggar) for Duncan (44), Steven Burton (Currie for Patrick (65). Not used - Angus Dixon (Aberdeen Grammar Rugby), Craig Simmonds (Heriot's), James Murray (Leeds Carnegie and Edinburgh Academicals), Lee Jones (Selkirk).
Tries, McColl, Bury; conversion, McColl.

Referee - David Rosich (France).