Two-try David McCann shone for Ireland as they enjoyed a thumping start to their World Rugby Under-20 Championship campaign with an emphatic 42-26 win over Six Nations rivals England in Santa Fe.
Three-time champions England paid the price for their own indiscipline and had been firmly in the game until Alfie Barbeary was sent off for an illegal tackle with just under quarter-of-an-hour to go.
Ollie Sleightholme – who scored two tries at this year’s Under-20 Six Nations – opened his World Cup account early on, and together with eight points from the boot of Manu Vunipola, put England in the ascendency early on.
But Grand Slam champions Ireland fought back, and scores from Jake Flannery and Stewart Moore gave them a slender, 14-13 advantage at the interval.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) June 4, 2019
Despite Aaron Hinkley being sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle, the match remained a close affair, but England were left clinging on to the game when Vunipola was shown their second yellow card.
After a brief England flurry in which Tom Seabrook went over, Ireland regrouped, and McCann responded with his second score as momentum began to swing in the way of the 2019 Under-20 Six Nations champions.
And this was furthered when Barbeary – who had just entered the field of play – was dismissed for a challenge on John Hodnett, which proved pivotal to the final result.
Ben Healy and Hodnett got on the scoresheet in the late stages to stretch Ireland’s lead and give them strong impetus ahead of their next match against Australia on Saturday.
England will look to get their campaign back on track, ahead of a crucial match against Italy on the same day.
The Italians produced a rugged display as they eventually succumbed 36-12 to the junior Wallabies in Pool B’s other match.
Despite dominating up front for much of the first 60 minutes, Italy were undone by handling errors and missed tackles which allowed their opponents to run in five tries.
Niccolo Taddio and Jacopo Trulla went over in the late stages and captain Davide Ruggeri explained his side have plenty to improve on going forward.
He said: “They [Australia] are a really good side but we must work more.
“We must understand the level – we have to work, work, work.”
Defending champions France got their campaign off to a winning start with a hard-fought 36-20 win over Fiji in Pool A.
The 2019 Under-20 Six Nations runners-up got off to a dream start when Donovan Taofifenua went over with just a minute gone, but they failed to capitalise on their early dominance.
— Fédération Française de Rugby (@FFRugby) June 4, 2019
Fiji were still in the game with the score at 29-20 with 12 minutes to play, but a hat-trick try from Jordan Joseph – who went over three times at this year’s Under-20 Six Nations – sealed the victory.
France will face Six Nations rivals Wales in their next match, who edged past hosts Argentina 30-25 in Pool A’s other match.
Cai Evans’ boot proved pivotal in a topsy-turvy game, and the 2019 Under-20 Six Nations third-highest point scorer kicked 20 points in a tight affair.
Harri Morgan and Ryan Conbeer scored tries for Wales, and skipper Morgan acknowledged the importance of sealing the win.
He said: “We’ve come to Argentina on their home patch. It’s not easy. We dug in deep at the end there because they did come back fighting.
“We need to kick on from this and move on to France on Saturday now.”
Scotland got off to a disappointing start in Pool C, as they were undone 43-19 by 2012 champions South Africa.
The final score somewhat flattered the junior Springboks, as Carl Hogg’s side were within three points around the hour-mark but leaked three late tries.
The Scots used their maul to good effect and scores from Murphy Walker, Cameron Anderson, as well as a penalty try, has given captain Connor Boyle hope they can put on a performance against New Zealand in their next game.
He said: “Going into half-time, we thought we were right in it.
“Games are won and lost on the flip of a coin and South Africa today were very accurate.”