Torrential downpours peppered an improved-but-could-do-better performance by Scotland's under-20 Junior World Cup squad as they met their Irish counterparts, for a training re-match of their opening 6 Nations encounter, at Murrayfield today.
Although going down 17-30 to the Irish - the majority of whom took to the field against the Scots in Ashbourne earlier this year - there was a marked improvement in Scotland's performances all round, more scores on the board and proportionately fewer shipped.
Tries from Lewis Carmichael and schoolboy Jamie Ritchie (above), plus a penalty try following dogged work at the scrum, enhanced a solid first half for the Scots where they enjoyed by far the majority of possession. The weather, however, did neither side any favours with torrential downpours of biblical proportions leading to slippery conditions underfoot and soaking the staunch supporters who'd turned up sporting sunnies at the start.
Head coach Sean Lineen said: "We went in winning after the first half and it was pretty good. We just need to look at our defence and keep working on that - parts of it are very good and parts need to be worked on.
"Individually there were some cracking performances, particularly from some of the younger lads - Zander Fagerson and Jamie Ritchie - coming into the squad and from Chris Dean at 13.
"We scored three really good tries and matched them at the set piece for long periods but it's that transition from attack to defence, or when they run from deep, that we need to work on, and our kick and chase was poor."
This was the first time the assembled squad had played together, last week's camp at Glencorse barracks with 2 SCOTS being given over to team building, and Lineen was full of praise for the way the players had stepped up, despite making some unfortunate errors at the end of the game which had led to the defeat.
"They know what they need to do but I'm really excited about the group we've put together."
It was Wales who came out firing first today, immediately taking the initiative and running the ball with confidence, full back Busby crossing in the top corner within five minutes. That was a wake-up call for the Scots who quickly got the measure of their opponents and ensured the action stayed around the Irish 20m for much of the remainder of the first half. Repeated attacks on the line looked like proving successful, the back three well in control, until the ball was popped forward just short of the whitewash by flanker Neil Irvine-Hess and advantage reverted to the visitors.
The Scots regrouped, collected the lineout and a move which began with a breach of the defence by lock Lewis Carmichael (above) saw him duly crossing for the try to level the scores (5-5), Ben Chalmers penalty attempt just easing the wrong side of the uprights. Heavy pressure by the home side ensured the Irish were on the back foot for much of next period of play with great work from the forwards, in particular prop D'arcy Rae. After repeated warnings about their scrum, the Irish were losing shape and control, and Scotland were awarded a penalty try, the conversion from Chalmers extending the lead to 12-5.
With conditions causing both sets of players to slide around and lose control of the ball, it was Scotland who were penalised next, for blocking, the awarded penalty secured by centre Garry Ringrose making the half time score Scotland 12-8 Ireland.
The Irish repeated their opening break of the first half early in the second, a confident set of pick and goes finished off by subsitute Dardis, the try converted by stand-off Ross Byrne (12-15).
The next downpour was welcome to cool off the rising emotions of both sides as tempers spilled over in the closely-fought contest, Scotland winning turnover ball, scrum and advantage to put Jamie Ritchie over by the flag. The conversion was short but the Scots now lead 17-15.
With the action see-sawing from end to end, it was Ireland who clocked up the next points, winning a penalty amidst the thumping if sliding tackles to give them back the lead (17-18).
Into the final fifteen minutes of the match and the Scots seemed to lose their footing as well as their grip on the game, missing tackles and letting the powerful Irish in to score twice, with one try converted, to put the game out of reach (17-30), the scoreline somewhat belying what had gone before.
Scotland regroup immediately to prepare for their second and final training game, away against Wales, midweek, prior to flying out to New Zealand on 24 May.
Lineen added: "We need to make sure we're ready for Wales on Wednesday which will be a real toughie."
Scotland under-20 team v Ireland under-20, pre IRB JWC training game, 11 May 2014, Murrayfield
15 Ruairidh Young (Edinburgh Accies)
14 Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) **
13 Chris Dean (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s)
12 Neil Herron ((Glasgow Hawks/Scotland 7s)
11 Damien Hoyland (Melrose) *
10 Ben Chalmers (Melrose)
9 Ben Vellacott (Hartpury/Gloucester)
1 Jack Cosgrove (Worcester Warriors)
2 Sam James (London Wasps)
3 D’arcy Rae (Ayr/Glasgow Warriors) **
4 Andrew Cramond (Aberdeen Grammar)
5 Lewis Carmichael (Melrose) *
6 Neil Irvine-Hess (Watsonians/Edinburgh Rugby) **
7 Tommy Spinks (C) (London Scottish)
8 Jamie Ritchie (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife) *
Substitutes (all used)
16 James Malcolm (Ayr) *
17 Cameron Fenton (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife) *
18 Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks)
19 Glenn Young (Newcastle Falcons)
20 Shaun MacDonald (Stirling County)
21 Alex Glashan (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s)
22 Gavin Lowe (Glasgow Hawks/Glasgow Warriors) **
23 Blair Hutchison (Loughborough University/Melrose)
24 Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints)
25 Sam Pecqueur (Edinburgh Accies)
26 Gavin Parker (Exeter University)
Ireland under-20: 15 David Busby (Queens – Ulster), 14 Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne – Leinster), 13 Garry Ringrose (UCD – Leinster)
12 Dan Goggin (Young Munster – Munster), 11 Alex Wooton (Garryowen – Munster), 10 Ross Byrne (UCD – Leinster), 9 Ryan Foley (Cork Constitution - Munster): 1 Denis Coulson (Lansdowne - Leinster), 2 Max Abbott (Cork Constitution – Munster), 3 Craig Trenier (Terenure – Leinster), 4 Darragh Moloney (Cork Constitution – Munster), 5 Ross Molony (UCD – Leinster), 6 Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins - Ulster), 7 Diarmaid Dee (Young Munster – Munster), 8 Jack O’Donoghue (c) (UL Bohemian - Munster)
Substitutes: 16 Dylan Donnellan (UCD - Leinster), 17 Mike Lynch (UL Bohemians/ Munster), 18 Rory Burke (Cork Constitution – Munster), 19 Stephen Gardiner (Lansdowne – Leinster), 20 Peader Timmins (UCD - Leinster), 21 Darragh Henry (Lansdowne),22 Conor McKeon (Lansdowne – Leinster), 23 Peter Robb (Old Belvedere – Leinster), 24 Rory Moloney (Buccaneers - Connacht), 25 Josh Murphy (UCD/Leinster), 26 Ciaran Gaffney (Galwegians – Connacht), 27 Billy Dardis (UCD – Leinster)
Referee: Cammy Rudkin
Assistant referees: David Changleng and Bob Nevins
4th official: Neil Muir
Scotland under-20 squad for IRB Junior World Cup
Magnus Bradbury (Boroughmuir/Edinburgh Rugby) **
Lewis Carmichael (Melrose) *
Ben Chalmers (Melrose)
Gabriel Carroll (Loughborough University)
Jack Cosgrove (Worcester Warriors)
Andrew Cramond (Aberdeen Grammar)
Philip Cringle (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) **
Chris Dean (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s)
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks)
Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby)
Cameron Fenton (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife)
Alex Glashan (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s)
Neil Herron (Glasgow Hawks/Scotland 7s)
Damien Hoyland (Melrose) *
Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints)
Blair Hutchison (Loughborough University/Melrose)
Neil Irvine-Hess (Edinburgh Rugby) **
Sam James (London Wasps)
Gavin Lowe (Glasgow Hawks/Glasgow Warriors) **
James Malcolm (Ayr) *
Gavin Parker (Exeter University)
Sam Pecqueur (Edinburgh Accies)
D’arcy Rae (Ayr/Glasgow Warriors) **
Jamie Ritchie (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife) *
Tommy Spinks (London Scottish) (captain)
Ben Vellacott (Hartpury/Gloucester)
Glen Young (Newcastle Falcons)
Ruairidh Young (Edinburgh Accies)
* member of Scottish Rugby’s Regional Academy supported by sportscotland Institute of Sport
** Elite Development Player 2013/14
The IRB Junior World Cup 2014 will be held in Auckland, New Zealand. Scotland’s pool games are against South Africa (Monday 2 June, k/o 3.35pm local); Samoa (Friday 6 June, k/o 3.35pm local); and New Zealand (Wednesday 10 June, k/o 7.35pm local). Further fixtures on Sunday 15 June and Friday 20 June are dependent on results. Last year, Scotland finished in 10th place in the tournament.