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Ireland U20s rescue last-gasp draw against England to keep Six Nations title ambitions alive

Drama at the death in Bath as Richie Murphy’s side salvage a result from the jaws of defeat.

England 32

Ireland 32

IRELAND SALVAGED A draw from the jaws of defeat in a pulsating U20 Six Nations showdown against England at the Rec.

This game swing over and back, but with the clock in the red, Richie Murphy’s side kept their dream of a third consecutive U20 Six Nations Championship intact. The Grand Slam one, however, faded.

Luke Murphy scored an 83rd-minute try under the posts and Sean Naughton converted the last kick of the game to rescue a memorable draw.

sean-naughton-celebrates-kicking-a-conversion-with-the-last-kick-of-the-game-to-force-a-draw Ireland’s Sean Naughton celebrates kicking a conversion with the last kick of the game to force a draw. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Both sides remain unbeaten — England are a point ahead — and it all comes down to next weekend. Ireland host Scotland, while England face a tricky trip to France.

It was a dramatic ending in Bath. Mark Mapletoft’s English replacements had ran onto the pitch in celebration, only to discover Ireland had a penalty advantage as they chased the game.

They had been in a winning position for a lot of it after tries from Finn Treacy, Ben O’Connor, Hugo McLaughlin and Henry Walker — with Jack Murphy pulling the strings throughout — but England’s bench power nudged them in front down the home straight.

They thought they had it won with three minutes to go. Ireland coughed up a penalty, England opted for the corner rather than the posts and went for the jugular. They mixed patience and power and Ben Waghorn eventually crashed over in the corner. The superb Sean Kerr kicked a huge conversion to put them into a seven-point lead.  

Little did anyone know the grandstand finish was yet to come.

After a nightmare start, Ireland played some excellent rugby and led by two points – 15-13 – at the break. Tries from Treacy and O’Connor were key, while Murphy was in electric form.

ben-oconnor-goes-past-archie-mcparland Ben O'Connor on the charge for Ireland. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

There were just three minutes on the clock when England captain Finn Carnduff crashed over for the opening try. The hosts had Ireland on the backfoot early doors and eventually drove over off a lineout maul, Sean Kerr adding the extras.

Ireland got off the mark in the eighth minute: Murphy nailed a penalty, with Kerr doing the same from distance shortly afterwards. Richie Murphy’s side remained calm and slowly but surely, moved through the gears.

Their attack sprung to life 16 minutes in as they capitalised on an England mistake.

Treacy was the scorer, Murphy the creator-in-chief as the duo combined for a try made in Presentation College Bray. Murphy found Treacy on the right with a pin-point cross-field kick, the winger turned on the gas and finished brilliantly under the posts. The out-half did the rest from the tee, levelling matters at 10-10.

There was a let-off for England just after when O’Connor saw a breakaway try chalked off for a supposed forward pass in the build-up, but the former Cork underage hurler was soon restored to the scoresheet. He finished off a sensational move in the 28th minute, after Murphy produced a quality pass to release Treacy and then O’Connor.

Not only had Ireland found a real fluidity and flair in attack, their defence produced some big moments. With four minutes to go until half time, Kerr notched a penalty to reduce the deficit to two. England had their tails up, but a big Irish turnover ensured it remained 13-15 at the midpoint.

England had a try crossed off shortly after the restart, while Ireland butchered a big chance of their own — but they made amends when McLaughlin dotted down in the corner for his first U20 international try after another impressive, patient move.

Ireland were dominant across the board as they led 20-13, but England weren’t laying down. George Makepeace-Cubitt stepped up with a moment of magic to keep them in the game: his outstanding cross-field kick put a try on a plate for replacement full-back Oli Spencer. They couldn’t level it up from the conversion.

The visitors looked to be back in control shortly after the hour-mark: Walker, fresh onto the pitch, secured the bonus point off the back of a line out maul. But similarly, they failed to add the extras. The width of the post cost them dearly.

In the 69th minute, England levelled matters. They piled on the pressure, and eventually, after being called back for a tap-and-go penalty and a TMO check, Kane James crashed over and ultimately, set-up a grandstand final 10 minutes.

They weren’t to be separated after all, and the U20 Championship goes right down to next week.

England scorers:

Tries: Finn Carnduff, Oli Spencer, Kane James, Ben Waghorn

Conversions: Sean Kerr [3 from 4]

Penalties: Sean Kerr [2]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Finn Treacy, Ben O’Connor, Hugo McLaughlin, Henry Walker, Luke Murphy

Conversions: Jack Murphy [2 from 4], Luke Murphy [1 from 1]

Penalties: Jack Murphy

ENGLAND: Ben Redshaw; Toby Cousins, Ben Waghorn, Sean Kerr, Alex Wills; Josh Bellamy, Archie McParland; Asher Opoku-Fordjour, Jacob Oliver, Billy Sela; Olamide Sodeke, Junior Kpoku; Finn Carnduff, Henry Pollock, Nathan Michelow.

Replacements: James Isaacs, Scott Kirk, James Halliwell, Zach Carr, Kane James, Ben Douglas, George Makepeace-Cubitt, Oli Spencer.

IRELAND: Ben O’Connor; Finn Treacy, Wilhelm de Klerk, Hugh Gavin, Hugo McLaughlin; Jack Murphy, Oliver Coffey; Alex Usanov, Danny Sheahan, Jacob Boyd; Alan Spicer, Evan O’Connell; Joe Hopes, Bryn Ward, Luke Murphy.

Replacements: Henry Walker, Ben Howard, Patreece Bell, Billy Corrigan, Sean Edogbo, Tadhg Brophy, Sean Naughton, Davy Colbert.

Referee: Reuben Keane (RA).

- Updated 21.48 to amend headline

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