Ireland played their first-ever Under 16s game at Golborne Parkside against England Community Lions and came away with a credible 18-all draw.
The visitors took the lead after five minutes when fullback Deacon Connolly forced a drop out and from the resulting possession, Luke Fisher blasted over beneath the posts. Daniel Coop goaled and it was 6-0.
The Community Lions responded quickly when Zak Mannion made a heap of metres to go inside the twenty and Stanley Beaumont, Jack Bibey, Lloyd Stainton and Lewis Pilling were all involved before Kian Goodhand stepped over out wide. Tyler Sykes couldn't convert.
Ireland were industrious and had a bit of class about them, and extended their advantage to 12-4 when Connolly burst through the middle and Elliott Fox was at his shoulder to finish from halfway for Coop to goal once more.
The Lions finished the first half strongly with back-to-back scores. The first went the way of Alex Golightly following a superb ball from Nate Parker. Sykes conversion attempt struck the posts. Then from the restart England took three big carries before exciting link up between Pilling and Layton Dockwray led to Goodhand galloping through from thirty metres. Again Sykes couldn't goal and the game was locked at 12-12 at half-time.
Six minutes into the new half England Community Lions hit the front for the first time with smart hands to the right from Parker and Golightly paving the way for Diego Walker to dive in at the corner and a superb goal from Dockwray opened the game to 18-12.
Ireland continued to test the Lions and they spied their chance when Jayden Aaron was sinbinned for a foul in a tackle. After driving close to the line a quick play-the-ball and superb reactions saw Seamus Knight dive over for the score and Coop levelled matters with the goal.
The Lions replied gamely and had a final chance of claiming the win at the end, but Parker couldn't get his field goal attempts away cleanly and could only watch on as it spooned wide of the posts, allowing Ireland to clear their lines and take the draw.
England Community Lions: Tyler Sykes, Diego Walker, Alex Golightly, Kian Goodhand, Oliver Shallcross; Lewis Pilling, Nate Parker; Zak Mannion, Stanley Beaumont, Lloyd Stainton, Henley Donnan, Jayden Aaron, Jack Bibey. Subs: Lucas Mulqueeney, Arben Pervizaj, Alfie Cox, Layton Dockwray, Zavier Dele Charley, Jaylen Conway, Jack Jones.
Tries: Kian Goodhand 2, Alex Golightly, Diego Walker.
Goals: Tyler Sykes 0/3, Layton Dockwray 1/1.
Ireland: Deacon Connolly, Joseph Hurdus, Daniel Coop, Dan Horkan, Michael Walsh; Alex Gorman, Elliott Fox; Patrick Houston, Reece Boyd, Luke Fisher, Leo Talbot, Leon Wallis, Zak Brand. Subs: Dan Ridpath, Oisin Carroll, Oliver Jolliffe, Ben Mulvany, Seamus Knight, Shea Cotter, Ryan Murphy.
Tries: Luke Fisher, Elliott Fox, Seamus Knight.
Goals: Daniel Coop 3/3.
By Dave Parkinson
Photo by Ben Challis