The opening day of the 2023 Six Nations Under-18s Men’s Festival saw wins for Italy, Ireland, and France in Dublin.
Italy opened the day with an impressive showing to ease past Wales, before Ireland ran home five tries in an enthralling encounter with Scotland.
And the closest contest was left to last, as France beat England by just a single point to wrap an exciting opening day.
Imperious Italy power past Wales
Italy crossed for five tries to get their 2023 Six Nations Under-18s Men’s Festival off to the perfect start with a 29-8 win over Wales.
The Azzurri started brightly and were two tries to the good inside the opening quarter of an hour, as they took advantage of an early yellow card for Max Bignall.
Giacomo Milano powered over from close range after 11 minutes following patient play on the Welsh line, before Diego Franchini finished smartly in the corner to seal a superb team move that saw Italy work the ball well through the hands following a terrific break from Federico Zanandrea.
The boot of Harri Wilde got Wales’ first points of the festival on the board but Italy crossed the whitewash again soon after.
Giulio Sari scampered free down the blindside before being halted just before the line, before Tommaso Redondi followed up to power over and send Italy in 17-3 ahead at the break.
Italy then had their fourth of the afternoon eight minutes after the restart, as the impressive work all day of Nelson Casartelli was rewarded as he powered over from close range.
Wales fought back and notched their first try of the festival through Harry Thomas, as the hooker fought his way over the line from the back of a rolling maul.
But Italy signed off from the opener with another flowing move through the hands, with Redondi and Zanandrea once again involved before Alessio Pensieri dotted down in the corner to seal a 29-8 win.
Ireland get past Scotland in hard-fought encounter
Two quickfire tries just before half time helped Ireland beat Scotland 36-20 in the second match of the day.
A pulsating first-half saw the sides tied at 10-10 after 22 minutes before two tries within five minutes saw the hosts take a 22-10 lead into the break.
And two more tries either side of a second Scotland try was enough to see out the win in front of a home crowd in Dublin.
It took just three minutes for Ireland to cross the whitewash, as second row Mahon Ronan crashed over following a relentless start that saw his side march straight into Scotland’s 22.
Jack Brown slotted Scotland’s first three points from the tee before a delightful dummy from scrum-half Ben White saw him break the line and dot down to put Scotland 10-7 ahead.
The boot of Tom Murtagh proved reliable for Ireland throughout and he levelled proceedings at 10-10 with a penalty to help swing momentum away from Scotland.
Ireland were now seeing most of the ball and some patient phase play five metres from the Scottish line was eventually rewarded as Bryan Walsh powered over.
And it was suddenly 22-10 as winger Paidi Farrell broke free down the right before playing in Gene O’Leary Kareem, who did well to offload to Murtagh who crossed four a third try of the half.
The lead was extended further after the break, as Yarr broke from the back of a rolling maul to score, before Scotland got themselves back in the game as Oliver Duncan capped off a fine individual performance by crossing from close range.
But any danger of a comeback was extinguished as Ireland first withheld the Scottish onslaught before running in a fifth and final try with two minutes left on the clock, as Mahon notched his second of the game after charging down an attempted box kick.
France edge out England
France overcame England 23-22 in a thrilling encounter to wrap up the opening day.
Neither side was ever fully in control of an end-to-end contest, but Johan Wasserman’s outstanding solo try proved the difference.
A cagey opening 20 minutes saw neither side able to take control, as handling errors often stymied exciting looking attacking moves.
Romain Taccola got the first points on the board from the tee, slotting home from 40 metres to put his side ahead before missing another chance from the tee three minutes later.
England then sparked suddenly into life, as Jack Bracken dotted down to finish a sweeping team move after Toby Baker seized on a loose ball and broke the French line before Ollie Davies produced a sumptuous pass to set Bracken free.
France then earned their first try on the cusp of half time, as Jon Echegarry bulldozed his way through the England defence to find Kalvin Gourgues, who powered past a number of tackles to send France in 8-7 ahead at the break.
28′ ENG 7 – 3 FRA
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) April 8, 2023
England had nudged ahead through the boot of Davies, but France were soon back in front with 25 minutes to play, as Thibaut Motassi raced onto an offload and broke the England line to score and put France 13-10 to the good.
The lead lasted for just a minute, however, as Reuben Logan powered onto an offload from Baker, before marching all the way to the line to finish under the posts and put his side 17-13 ahead.
After a first half of few points, the second half continued to explode into life, as Wasserman put France back ahead with a superb solo try, carrying the ball from inside his own half and shrugging off tackles to score, with a further three points from the tee from Diego Jurd extended the lead to 23-17.
England then hauled themselves back into the game with a slick set-piece, Kepueli Tuipulotu took a lineout short to Logan before receiving it straight back and finishing impressively in the corner to reduce the deficit to a single point.
But it proved to leave England just short, as France withstood a late barrage to edge out 23-22 victors.