Ireland's hopes of once again being contenders on the World Rugby U20 Championship stage were further boosted over the weekend following a second consecutive Six Nations victory which leaves them four points clear of the chasing pack with two rounds played.
Runners-up at international age-grade rugby’s marquee event in Manchester in 2016, Ireland slipped to disappointing ninth and 11th-place finishes in the two subsequent tournaments in Georgia and France. But the class of 2019 are showing real signs of promise, backing up their tremendous 35-27 win over England on the opening weekend with a 24-5 win against Scotland at Netherdale in Galashiels, and they are now in pole position to claim their first title at this level since 2010.
Hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin made it three tries in two games after backing up his brace against England with the opening try in a tight first half. Harry Byrne (pictured) converted, in addition to an earlier penalty, to make it 10-0 at the interval.
Ireland extended their lead 15 minutes into the second half when number eight John Hodnett crossed for a converted effort. Skipper Connor Boyle soon replied for Scotland, but Ireland had the last word when Jonathan Wren scored a brilliant try, again converted by Byrne.
Ireland’s next task, in a fortnight’s time, is to play Italy in what will be a dress rehearsal for their Pool B fixture against the Azzurrini in June at World Rugby U20 Championship 2019 in Argentina.
While Ireland fell just short of notching a bonus-point, England and Wales had no such trouble accounting for France and Italy respectively. Both are in a group of four teams with five points to their name.
England used their forward muscle to overpower defending European and world champions France 31-19 at Sandy Park. Such was the dominance of the home scrum, Welsh referee Craig Evans awarded England two penalty tries to go with efforts from winger Ollie Sleightholme, number eight Tom Willis and prop Olly Atkins.
The only disappointment for Steve Bates’ side was the failure to score from open play in the second half, a penalty try apiece providing the only points after the break. Nevertheless, it was some revenge for losing last year’s U20 Championship final to Les Bleuets in Beziers.
For France, 18-year-old number eight Jordan Joseph was once again their standout performer, the teenager capping another fine display with his side’s first try. Julien Debous also crossed in the 35th minute but with three men sent to the sin-bin, the ill-disciplined French were never in a position to truly challenge England.
Meanwhile, Wales bounced back from their opening defeat to France in style with a 42-12 victory away to Italy.
Number eight Taine Basham added to his growing reputation as he scored a hat-trick of tries to steer Wales to their first win of the campaign.
Italy came into the game on the back of a rousing win in Scotland in round one and having beaten Wales in Colwyn Bay in last year's fixture. But they had no answer to the bullocking runs of Basham, who lived up to his name by scattering defenders left, right and centre.
Second-row Ed Scragg and replacement forward Dafydd Buckland joined him on the scoresheet, while Italy’s consolation scores came from Michael Mba, who was also yellow-carded, and Jacopo Trulla.