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02nd Feb 2018

Tommy O’Brien pure class but Ireland U20s fall agonisingly short

Patrick McCarry


What looked, for the longest time, to be a French rout turned into one hell of a game in Bordeaux.

Noel McNamara’s side trailed 22-3 at half-time, with France’s No.10 Romain Ntamack crossing for two electric tries, but they staged a rousing fight-back after the break.

Ireland captain Tommy O’Brien was the shining light for the visitors and he played a big role in two of Ireland’s three second-half tries. He looked to have dotted down for a score that was eventually given as a penalty try. There was more to come.

The U20s, urged on by former Munster and Ireland captain Paul O’Connell on the sidelines, sensed their hosts were wilting and pressed for further scores. They were rewarded wen Ulster scrum-half Johnny Stewart snipped up the blindside to get his side’s second try.

O’Brien then showed up twice in one beautiful attack that eventually led to a try for left winger James McCarthy. The Leinster centre paid for his lung-busting run by throwing up on the sideline as a conversion was being lined up.

Outhalf Harry Byrne converted and there was hope as the game headed into the last six minutes.

All hope was dashed, though, when Irish indiscipline combined with French power and a late score. There would not even be a losing bonus point as Byrne missed a late penalty with the last kick of the game.

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