IRELAND CLUBS 26
SCOTLAND CLUBS 23
The Ireland and Scotland club teams served up a highly entertaining international contest last weekend, with the home nation edging the game 26-23 in a thrilling finish at Dubarry Park.
There was a decent attendance at the Athlone venue despite the bitterly cold night and little or no promotion in the national media for this fixture. The hardy spectators were well rewarded with a lively and committed affair from start to finish.
Both teams endeavoured to play expansive rugby and had chances, before a blistering Ireland counter attack from inside their own 22 saw Harry Brennan racing along the left flank, before off-loading to Jake Swaine for a stunning opening try after 10 minutes. Neil Cronin duly converted, but a brace of Craig Jackson penalties narrowed Scotland’s arrears to the minimum.
The visitors then enjoyed a good spell before the hosts regrouped to force the pace. It took a last ditch tackle by Fraser Thomson to deny his opposite number, Swaine, a second try, following a flowing Ireland move initiated by Jack Dwan and carried on by Daniel McEvoy.
Ireland notched their second try when a smartly taken resultant lineout caused confusion in the Scottish defence, and Joe McSwiney charged over for a 36th minute try, with Cronin again adding the extras. However, the impressive Thomson weaved his way in for a splendid final move of the half, touching down for an unconverted try to narrow Ireland’s half-time advantage to 14-11.
Ireland dominated after the change of ends and Scotland substitute Nick Beavon, on the pitch literally a matter of seconds, was sin-binned after 49 minutes for bringing down a maul. But the hosts were hurried in their endeavours and lacked composure for a period, leaving them unable to make their temporary numerical advantage pay off. However, a sparkling 67th minute attack that seemed certain to yield a third try was denied by a knock on by a Scotland defender, and referee Matthew Turvey, following consultation with a touch judge, awarded a penalty try.
Scotland retorted swiftly and, after some neat interplay, full-back Thomson notched his second try on 70 minutes, again unconverted. The bigger visiting pack then put in a superb maul just two minutes later to earn a penalty try that edged them ahead for the first time 23-21.
Spurred on by the crowd, Ireland responded with some fine, patient attacking play that led to McEvoy racing in for a 77th minute try, which Swaine was unable to convert. Scotland again unleashed their huge pack in an effort to retrieve the situation in a dramatic conclusion to this game, but Ireland held out for a narrow but merited 26-23 victory.
So, it is all to play for in two weeks time, when the winner of the Dalriada Cup will be decided. Ireland may need to beef up their pack a bit and improve their lineout work if they are to deny the Scots the trophy for the third time in a row.