Alex Kendellen says Ireland were made to dig deep during their comeback victory over Italy that kept their chances of winning the 2021 Six Nations Under-20s title alive.
Ireland trailed 23-12 at half-time but came roaring back after the break, as skipper Kendellen crossed for two tries and Nathan Doak’s boot took the game beyond the Azzurrini for a 30-23 triumph.
It was far from easy but the character and heart shown by the men in green at Cardiff Arms Park delighted the captain.
“It was tough. We knew Italy would bring that physicality up front and the ability to whip it out back when they needed to,” said Kendellen.
“It was a very attritional game and credit to Italy, they really put it up to us.
“We knew we didn’t come out in the first 40. Leams, Cully and Richie [the coaching team] brought us in at half-time and said stick to the process, nothing changes.
“We knew Italy would start to fade towards the end and we could capitalise on that, which I think we did very well.
“I was gassed after the first five minutes! They have some special players out there and it was a really good game to play.”
The victory, which came with a bonus point thanks to Eoin de Buitléar and George Saunderson’s first-half tries, keeps Ireland’s mathematical hopes of defending the title they won in 2019 alive heading into Round 5.
However, they will require a big favour from the team they just beat as they need Italy to defeat England, while also denying the Red Rose any sort of bonus point.
That would enable Ireland to snatch the title should they notch a bonus-point win over France by a big enough margin to overhaul England on points difference.
And Kendellen is relishing the challenge awaiting them in the final round of this year’s Championship.
“We’ll enjoy this win now, take the day off and look into France for the last game,” he added. “We’re looking forward to it.”