Round Three of the Under-20s Six Nations is in the books after three thrilling Friday night fixtures.
And it was Ireland who came out on top as they maintained a four-point lead at the summit of the standings with a bonus-point victory in Italy.
Italy 14-34 Ireland
Scrum-half Craig Casey bagged a double while Scott Penny also went over in the first half and skipper David Hawkshaw scored late on to seal the bonus point for the men in green.
“It was incredibly tough out there. We knew coming into the game how physical they’d be with the size of them and the way they play rugby,” said Hawkshaw.
“We’re delighted with the win, we’re delighted to come home with the bonus point, and just really looking forward to the next few weeks.
“We’re off to Queen’s next Thursday and we’re lucky enough to get another (training) session with the Ireland senior team up there in Belfast.
“Back into camp on Monday and then looking to going back home to Cork for what should be a great game against France.”
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 22, 2019
The Italians did stage a late comeback with two tries in the final ten minutes but it wasn’t to be enough to take anything from the game.
“There probably weren’t 20 points between the sides but looking at the extra experience the Irish had, maybe there were,” said head coach Fabio Roselli.
“We asked for a big response from the players in terms of their approach, at times there was, at others no.
“In Italy there is definitely growth, even if not always in terms of results: we have to find the way to speed up this improvement because the other teams are also getting better with a cultural background that is superior to ours.”
Wales 11-10 England
Wales left it until the clock was in the red to break English hearts as Deon Smith dotted down to secure a win by the narrowest of margins.
The replacement winger dived over much to the delight of the home fans inside the Stadiwm Zipworld as Wales climbed into third spot in the table, three points above their matchday opponents.
England head coach Steve Bates was left with a bitter pill to swallow by the result but looked on the match as good experience overall for his players.
— Graeme Gillespie 🇳🇿🏴 (@gginwales) February 23, 2019
“It’s very disappointing,” said Bates.
“We felt we created quite a lot of opportunities in the first half but that dominance did not show on the scoreboard.
“This is all good experience for these players’ development though and there are a lot disappointed players in the changing room but this defeat does not make them bad players.”
France 42-27 Scotland
France needed to dig deep to fend off a late comeback from Scotland as the reigning champions ramped up their efforts to defend their Championship crown.
The two teams shared 11 tries between them on the night but France had got themselves well ahead before visitors decided to show up to the party.
“It was certainly a step-up from the first two games in terms of the quality of the opposition – the pace and the physicality – which France brought,” said Scotland head coach Carl Hogg.
“I thought they were a very good side with some dangerous backs and physical ball-carriers up front. Ironically, we talked about getting off to a fast start to quieten the crowd, and I have to give the players all credit for fighting back from 21-0 down to get themselves in front.
U20 | FT | France get the win in tonight’s U20 Six Nations encounter, despite a thrilling comeback from Scotland. Some great rugby on show from both sides in a terrific contest. #AsOne#SCOU20 🇫🇷 [42-27] 🏴 pic.twitter.com/xumggrzsS6
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 22, 2019
“We put in a huge shift to arrest that momentum and push it back in our favour, but, ultimately, we made too many errors throughout the game, whether that is getting bumped in tackles or our set-piece not being able to maintain any pressure on the opposition.”
France flanker Paul Boudehent believes that his team got the win by doing the simple things well.
“We started very well but in the middle of the first half we probably thought we were better than we were. Scotland took advantage and at half-time our heads had dropped,” said Boudenhent.
“We came back but it was hard. We only came through by doing simple things, the maul, the lineout, but we were paid the price for the errors we made.”