Hugo Keenan had no complaints about being denied Ireland’s second-ever debut hat-trick. The Leinster wing became the eighth Irishman to score two tries on his Test bow, as Andy Farrell’s men overwhelmed Italy 50-17 in Dublin on Saturday.
The 24-year-old was denied a historic treble when James Ryan was pinged for blocking to allow space for a Jacob Stockdale break.
But a delighted Keenan believes had the disallowed score stood he may never have run in the quickfire try that followed, and was duly granted, to seal his brace.
“As Ed Byrne said, the third one probably wouldn’t have come about if the second hadn’t been disallowed, so I’ll take two any day,” said Keenan.
“I was just on the end of the work done by the others in fairness. I was just finishing them off.”
Seamus Byrne’s debut treble against Scotland in 1953 remains Ireland’s only first-cap hat-trick.
But Keenan did join the club containing just seven others who have bagged a brace on their first Irish Test outing, and the former Ireland Sevens wing has already shown his capabilities at international level.
Ireland’s easy victory over Italy tees up another tilt at the Six Nations title; a bonus-point win against France in Paris on Saturday would secure the silverware.
Keenan’s best friend in rugby and fellow Leinster and Ireland Sevens team-mate Will Connors enjoyed a memorable debut, too.
The rangy flanker marked his own Test bow with a try and was rightly named man of the match for his tireless breakdown skulduggery and relentless tackling.
For two 24-year-olds who have enjoyed the scenic route to the Test arena, Keenan admitted Saturday was a proud moment, at a ghostly Aviva Stadium empty of fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked about making his debut alongside Connors, Keenan said: “It was incredible; Will is one of my best mates, probably my best mate in rugby, so it was so cool.
“Our dads get on very well together and there is a good connection between the families.
“We made our European Cup debut at the same time against Saracens a month ago so we have come through the ranks together.
“It’s really special to see him go so well and get man of the match with so many tackles and do what he does best. He deserves it.”
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