England U20s’ Six Nations campaign began with defeat, losing 35-27 to Ireland in a thrilling encounter in Cork.
Ireland crossed twice scoring tries from Dylan Tierney-Martin and Scott Penny, with Harry Byrne kicking 10 points.
A second from Tierney-Martin and points from Byrne gave Ireland the lead and they sealed victory with Cormac Foley’s late converted score.
Byrne sent over a fifth-minute penalty for an early Ireland lead, before Murley latched onto a loose pass in midfield and arched round his opposite man on the left wing to cross for a first England U20s try which Smith converted.
Willis finished off Ted Hill’s powerful break for a second England score but Ireland came fighting back with Tierney-Martin bundling over from close range which Byrne converted.
Ireland win 35-27 in front of a crowd of 5,764 at Irish Independent Park.
Thank you Cork!
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 1, 2019
Hodge then scored a superb individual try taking a high ball before stepping inside and searing through with Smith’s conversion increasing the lead to 21-10.
Byrne reduced the deficit with a penalty and Ireland went to within a point via Penny’s converted try, but Smith’s penalty on the stroke of half-time gave England a 24-20 advantage.
Ireland’s Tierney-Martin had a second soon after the restart, bundling over off the back of a driving maul as the hosts took the lead.
Tom Hardwick’s penalty edged the game towards England before Byrne put the hosts back in front with a score of his own.
Ireland lost Michael Milne to the sin bin for persistent scrum infringement but they held out, scoring a late converted try to seal victory and the bonus point.
Steve Bates said: “It’s very disappointing to start with a defeat, but I’m most disappointed for the players. They have worked really hard and their reaction to the loss after the game shows how disappointed they are.
“They now have a great opportunity to bounce back against France which will be a tough game but ultimately they have learned that if they’re not at their best then teams will put them under a lot of pressure.
“You have to give credit where it’s due, Ireland absorbed a lot of pressure and capitalised when they got their opportunities and punished any mistakes we made.
“We played too deep in the first half and that gave them the opportunity to put us under pressure and they took their chances when they got them.
“There were flashes of some very good stuff and we’ve shown that if we create opportunities then we have the talent to finish them, what we didn’t do is look after the ball well enough and we tried to force it a little too much.”
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