While the newly sponsored Guinness Six Nations may have been the headline event this week, the U20 Six Nations also kicked off this weekend and there were some fantastic games of rugby.
Among the notable results was a second U20 Six Nations win over Scotland in a row for Italy, and an Irish victory over England. Reigning Six Nations and World champions, France, meanwhile beat Wales on Sunday to round off the weekend’s action.
Scotland were stunned by Italy on Friday evening at Netherdale in Galashiels. They had lost in Italy last time out, by the green shoots of promise in Italian rugby were further shown on Friday night as Italy beat the Scots on their own turf 32-22. It secured a bonus point for the Italians, and perhaps just as impressively it stopped Scotland from securing one of their own.
The other game on Friday evening was England’s trip to Irish Independent Park in Cork to face Ireland. England headed across the Irish Sea with a star studded side including a number of players that have been in Eddie Jones’ senior camps, but Ireland have plenty of strength themselves and had a crucial warm up game under their belts too.
England led at half time by a slender four point margin at 24-20, Cadan Murley, Tom Willis, and Josh Hodge scoring their tries, while Dylan Tierney-Martin and Scott Penny had scored for Ireland. The two kickers were on form too, Marcus Smith collecting nine first half points for England while Harry Bryne claimed ten for Ireland.
However in the second half the scoreboard was controlled by Ireland, who scored two further tries, a second for Tierney-Martin and a late try for Cormac Floey, with Byrne adding a penalty and a conversion to secure the 35-27 victory.
It was a huge win for Ireland, who will head to face Scotland with huge confidence, while England’s game at Exeter on Saturday against the defending champions, France, takes on even more importance now.
Speaking about the game to www.englandrugby.com England U20 head Coach 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 for them 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.”
The weekend was rounded off on Sunday by Wales’ trip to defending champions France, whose only defeat of 2018 came against England in the 6 Nations. Of course they went on to win that and the World Rugby U20 Championships in June.
Wales gave a fantastic account of themselves, led by skipper Tommy Reffell, but there was just too much quality and experience in the French ranks as they ran in four tries to Wales’ one. France had to wait until the last play of the game to get the bonus point though, with Vincent Pinto running in and Louis Carbonel converting to seal the 32-10 victory.
That last try was done with just fourteen on the field, too, as flanker Sacha Zegeuer was shown a late red card for a dangerous tackle that saw the ball carrier land on his neck.
U20 6 Nations Table:
U20 6 Nations Fixtures/Results:
Ireland 35-27 England
Scotland 22-32 Italy
France 32-10 Wales
Scotland v Ireland – Friday 8th Feb, 7.30pm, Netherdale, Galashiels
England v France – Saturday 9th Feb, 12.05pm, Sandy Park, Exeter
Italy v Wales – Sunday 10th Feb, 2pm, Stadio Danilo Martelli, Mantova
Italy v Ireland – Friday 22nd Feb, 6pm, Stadio Centro d’Italia, Rieti
Wales v England – Friday 22nd Feb, 7.05pm, Stadwm Zip World, Colwyn Bay
France v Scotland – Friday 22nd Feb, 8pm, Stade du Dameau, Pau
Ireland v France – Friday 8th Mar, 7.15pm, Irish Independent Park, Cork
Scotland v Wales – Friday 8th Mar, 7.30pm, Meggetland, Edinburgh
England v Italy – Friday 8th Mar, 7.45pm, Goldington Road, Bedford
Italy v France – Friday 15th Mar, 6pm, Stadio Pozzi La Marmora, Piedmont
Wales v Ireland – Friday 15th Mar, 7.05pm, Stadiwm Zip World, Colwyn Bay
England v Scotland – Friday 15th Mar, 7.45pm, Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton