IRB Junior World Championship
England edge out Ireland in opener
ESPNscrum Staff
June 10, 2011
England's Owen Farrell tackles Ireland's Brendan Macken, England U20s v Ireland U20s, IRB Junior World Championship, Treviso, Italy, June 10, 2011
England's Owen Farrell tackles Ireland's Brendan Macken during their clash in Treviso © Getty Images

England opened their IRB Junior World Championship campaign with a hard fought 33-25 win against Ireland in Treviso.

Rob Hunter's men outscored Ireland four tries to one with scores from Worcester wing Andy Short and Sale Sharks prop Henry Thomas, Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and London Irish wing Marland Yarde. Leicester Tigers fly-half George Ford added 13 points with the boot. But it wasn't all plain sailing for England, as Ireland kept the scoreboard ticking through the boot of Dungannon's Paddy Jackson and his replacement James McKinney, both taking advantage of the high penalty count against England.

England got off to a dream start though, after forcing a scrum deep in Ireland's territory with two minutes played. Bath scrum half Chris Cook got the ball out quickly and smooth passing across the field cumulated in Worcester wing Andy Short flying over in the corner, with Ford converting. Ford extended England's lead to 13-0, coolly dispatching two penalties after Irish infringements at the breakdown. Ireland missed two penalties of their own when Jackson kicked just wide both times. Jackson made no mistake with his third attempt though, slotting through with half an hour played to make the score 13-3.

England thought they had scored after a Ford grubber was taken by Short over the try line, but South African referee Jaco Peyper, deemed it not to have been touched down. Ireland then broke straight away through Blackrock College wing Andrew Conway who's attempted kick up field deflected kindly off England skipper Alex Gray's back and Conway collected before running through to touch down. Heavy pressure from the restart allowed England to push hard on Ireland's try-line, and good work from Vunipola freed up space for Thomas to touch down. Ford missed the conversion, and Ireland scored a late penalty to take the score to 18-13 at the break.

England brought on Premiership winner Owen Farrell for Ryan Mills, but it was Ireland who drew first blood in the second half when Jackson scored a penalty to bring the Irish to within two points. Just as things started to look very tense, Vunipola produced a solo try for England belying his position of tight-head. A lovely sidestep and brute strength freed the former Bristol prop up to dive over, giving England a 23-16 lead after Ford's conversion attempt hit the post. Ireland's McKinney missed and then scored two penalties in quick succession to bring the Irish to within a point of England at 23-22.

McKinney then gave Ireland the lead for the first time in the match with 10 minutes remaining, converting another penalty. But England hit back with one of their own from Ford to give England the lead back at 26-25. Ireland then had to contend with the sinbinning of back rower Shane Buckley and England made the most of the man advantage, as replacement wing Marland Yarde dived over in the corner to give England breathing space at 31-25, before Ford converted and England held out to win 33-25.

Defending champions New Zealand extended their unbeaten run in the competition, dating back to the inaugural tournament in 2008, with a 64-7 victory over hosts Italy. New Zealand took the lead in the third minute when full back Charles Piutau claimed the honour of scoring the Baby Blacks' 100th try in JWC history. A penalty from fly half Gareth Anscombe and two converted tries, from wing Mitchell Scott and Piutau again, stretched the lead.

Italy were unlucky to lose the ball just a step away from the try line, allowing a great counter-attack by second row Steven Luatua, who sprinted almost the length of the field to score a fourth try inside the first half-hour. Another try from wing Francis Saili sent New Zealand in at half time leading 36-0. The hosts came out for the second half in determined mood and were soon celebrating with their ecstatic fans in the sell-out crowd when wing Michele Visentin crossed for a try he will remember for the rest of his life.

New Zealand prop Gregory Pleasants-Tate received a yellow card for a high tackle and his teammates gave away a series of penalties as the emboldened Italians took the game right up to their feted opponents. But despite an aggressive defence, the gulf in class was never going to be bridged. Tries from Anscombe inside centre Lima Sopoaga, and replacements TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett completed New Zealand's victory.

Elsewhere, Matthew Morgan inspired Wales to a 34-8 victory over Argentina in their Pool A clash. The Ospreys fly-half scored 19 points, including a first-half try, to guide the Welsh side to a convincing win in Padova. Morgan slotted home the first of six kicks after three minutes before adding a superb solo score.

Williams then crossed for a second try to put Wales 17 v 0 ahead. Richard Webster's side dominated in the scrum, and when the ball was sent wide in the 25thminute, Williams crossed in the corner for a converted try. Argentina clawed back a score before half time, scrum-half Marcos Bollini going over in the corner.

From the restart, Wales showed more urgency and intent. Scarlets prop Rhodri Jones led the way with a charge in midfield. From the ensuing ruck, Morgan kicked ahead for Eli Walker to chase and touch down. Argentina got a penalty and slowed down the game for the third quarter, but Wales brought on some fresh legs and got their fourth try through Williams after 68 minutes. Good line-out ball went through the phases quickly, creating an overlap on the left for Williams to glide over. Morgan converted and slotted a second penalty to take the score to 34-8 with ten minutes to go.

In the opening day's other games, Australia hammered Tonga 54-7 and France edged Fiji 24-12 in Pool B while in the other Pool C clash, South Africa shut out Scotland 33-0.

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