In a tight game, played in challenging conditions, Irelan emerged as winners in this clash of the celts. On the back of the under 16's victory over Scotland earlier in the day the under 19's set about trying to win by 27 clear points in order to win the four nations trophy.
The weather had grown progressively worse over the day and both teams entered onto a pitch that was becoming more suitable to host a swimming gala and this showed with the amount of errors from either side.
An error from kick off gave Scotland the first attacking set but a forward pass near the Irish line quashed this chance. From this the game settled into both sets of forwards testing each other and some speculative kicking to probe for weaknesses in the defensive lines. After 8 minutes the Scottish forced another Irish error, which gave them another attacking position to work from, but again, an error killed their go forward and this was further compounded when they gave a relieving penalty away, to assist the Irish out of their own half.#
After 10 minutes Ireland thought they had scored. Slick hands moved the ball out right to Stephen Cahill and a clever shimmy got him on the outside of his opposite number but he lost the ball as he attempted to ground. Unfortunately for Scotland another error gave the Irish the ball back in a dangerous position. Another error, however, gave the Scottish the ball back and they played a safe set to work out of their own half. The end of this set saw the Irish attempt to charge down the kick. Scotland regathered and three tackles later they were close to the Irish line and pushing for the first score, but Hayden Cumming went without the ball, knocking on as he attempted to score.
Errors in good attacking positions seemed to be endemic and Ireland now matched Scotland by losing the ball in a great attacking position. From a very clever kick by stand-off Alfie McClean the Irish failed to gather the ball cleanly and Scotland had a scrum 10 metres out from the Irish line. From the Scrum the ball was moved to the right side of attack and Cam Cullen wrestled free and looked to have scored, but lost the ball in the act of attempting to ground the ball.
On 23 minutes Scotland forced another error from a kick. From this the Scottish used some powerful settling runs from their forwards, including a great effort from Fraser Macauley, who took four defenders to stop him going in under the posts. From the ensuing play, the Scottish went right but the Irish defence were aware of it and moved up quickly. This forced scrum half, Max Shelton, to straighten up the attack and he saw a gap and darted through to score the game's first try. Max Macleod added the extras to give Scotland a 6-0 lead.
Great Irish tackling forced an error close to the Scottish line. Ireland worked the blind side for the first couple of tackles from the scrum and then hooker Rory Lynch came open and invited a drop off ball to , who crashed over and scored Jamie Gill who was tackled into a sitting position, facing his own sticks whereupon he grounded the ball in his left hand. The conversion was made by Tom Ashurst and the Irish had parity on the scoreboard.
The try ignited the Irish and first Gill and then Wing made incisive runs and but for a knock-on Ireland might have gone in front. They weren't to be denied for long though. After the Scottish worked hard to get out of their own territory a crossfield chip kick, meant for their own left wing, was scooped by Lewis Wing, who went 60 metres and scored a try and this time he made no mistake as he atoned for his disallowed try, earlier in the game. Ashurst couldn't add the extras, hitting the left upright.
Scotland were to get one more chance before half time after Ireland lost the ball in the tackle, but they couldn't breach the Irish defence. The half ended with the Irish up by four points and the Scottish could feel a little unlucky to be behind at this point.
The second half started in a similar manner to the first half, with the Irish knocking on, on the first play. This time, however, it was close to the Scottish line and the error by a kick chaser. The Scottish went through their plays and kicked a bomb on the fifth. Oliver Whitford, not really under any pressure, fumbled the ball backwards. The Scottish kick chasers were quickest to the ball and Jacob Grierson scooped up the loose ball and crashed over. Macleod added the extras and Scotland were back in front.
The game was becoming attritional. Both sides used their huge forwards to try and batter into submission. On 50 minutes Gill thought he had scored his second try, only for referee Ryan Cox to say he had been held up. Ireland piled on the pressure, but the Scottish defence held firm.
A difference in the sets was starting to occur. Scotland were having to struggle to get out of their own area with the ball and then kicking for field position. Ireland, with hard yards made by the likes of Gill and fellow interchange Kyle Stacey, were putting in attacking kicks at the end of their sets. They nearly scored out wide through Wing, via a crossfield kick, but he knocked on when trying to gather a crossfield kick.
Scotland needed the bigger lads to make the hard yards and they weren't found wanting from the likes of Gregor McKinnon, but the clever short kicking game, so effective in the first half, now was causing them to cede field position in favour of the Irish. Ireland took advantage and after a good run from Jake Parkes it was up to the rampaging Gill to run in from 15 metres out and score left of the posts, with a host of tiring Scottish tacklers failing to prevent him. This time Ashurst made no mistake with the kick and Ireland led by 16 points to 12.
It is to their eternal credit that the Scottish team, smaller in size and visibly tiring, were able to raise their game once more. But fatigue can make decision making difficult and they chose to run, after a tackle beyond the horizontal, when two points were on offer and the hard working McKinnon took a penalty tap he will prefer to forget and the chance was gone.
With just over 15 minutes to go Scotland reintroduced hard working props Fraser MaCaulay and the very Irish sounding Declan Kelly and they gave the Scottish similar sized battleships as the Irish front row. Kelly in particular had been a real handful for the Irish defence during the first half. Gill was still smashing holes in the Scottish defensive line but handling errors in following plays were undoing some great work.
The two teams were now playing very different styles. Scotland were fighting to get out of their own half, Ireland were laying a strong platform for attacking kicks. Will Thomson, demonstrating a stout defensive demonstration of a winger, was being peppered with kicks and he was equal to the challenge. If he didn't get the kick then he made sure he made the tackle to nullify the Irish catcher.
The sheer courage of the Scottish in this situation earned them the right to challenge for the game and in the 77th minute they were rewarded for their bravery. The Scottish earned a penalty near the Irish line when Hayden Cumming attempted a through kick for the Irish to block and be caught offside when regathering the ball. Scotland moved the ball right and were awarded a penalty for a high tackle on Cumming. Gabe Lewis tapped and went close to the line and from there Cumming scooted and wriggled under the Irish defence to level the scores.
There was now just about 90 seconds left on the clock and Ireland were behind by two points. They had to regather their own kick off to stand a chance of winning the match. An unfortunate knock-on by Archie Walker gave the Irish field position for one last attempt to wrestle victory. After a couple of initial drives to the right the ball was moved quickly to left winger, Lewis Swing, who stayed low and dived under the tackles to put the Irish in front in the final minute of the game.
There was just time to kick off and the Irish went through the motions for the final four tackles of the match, to take the win.
Credit to both sides in what was at times a scrappy encounter. The Irish will be happy with the win, whereas the Scottish can take extreme pride in how deep they dug and how close they came to winning the fixture.
Oliver Whitford, Lewis Wing, George Charnock, Oliver Fitzsimmons, Stephen Cahill, Sean Murray, Tom Ashurst, Conlan Mawson, Rory Lynch, Patrick Stapleton, Sam Winney, Adam Quinn, Tadhg Dowdall
Interchanges: Kyle Barrett, Jamie Gill, Kyle Stacey, Jake Parkes, Matt Cahill, Conor Colman, Oisin Donaghue
Tries: Jamie Gill (32, 57), Lewis Wing (38, 78)
Goals: Tom Ashurst 3/4
Hayden Cumming, Max Macleod, Nils Johnson, Cam Cullen, Will Thomson, Alfie McClean, Max Shelton, Declan Kelly, Gabe Lewis, Fraser Macaulay, Gregor McKinnon, Jacob Greirson, Archie Walker
Interchanges: Reece Smethurst, Regan Lofthouse, Jacob Bloxham, Oliver Brady, Gregor Pert, Oliver Rusling
Tries: Max Shelton (23), Jacob Greirson (42). Hayden Cumming (77)
Goals: Max Macleod 3/3