Connacht U20s 22-12 Italy U20s

The Connacht U20s have opened their accounts for 2014 with an encouraging outing, and an experience will benefit all. They faced a physical Italian team, who got the better of their Munster counterparts last Friday. 

Connacht were never overawed by the bigger Italian team, although winger Yanick Agbasse threatened by scything through the defensive line twice in the opening minutes. They did well keeping possession, and in attack; Anthony McGivney ran terrific lines on three occassions.

Italy went closest to opening the scoring first, with Luca Spearnadio, who displayed some silky footwork throughout. Italy had most of the territory in the opening stages, but both teams seemed comfortable, with Conor Lowndes, amongst others, making turnovers on the ground before the Italians got too threatening.

Connacht got onto the front foot from a set piece move. One of the terrific running lines from fullback McGivney from inside centre Ben Ridgeway’s short popped pass lead to a great break, but unfortunately the last would-be scoring pass to Oisin Leahy failed to go to hands. All was not lost however, as from the resulting overthrown lineout, scrumhalf Lowndes reacted quickest to seize the ball, and the opportunity to snipe over for a try. His conversion was wayward in the wind.

The Italians struck back almost immediately, with a strong lineout maul from inside Connacht’s 22 ultimately got them level. Flanker Matteo Archetti was the beneficiary of the maul, which was a tactic the Italians used ruthlessly and effectively throughout the game.

Connacht refused to drop their heads though, and the third excellent line of running from McGivney brought another linebreak, and when Lowndes kicked intelligently, Connacht ended up with a lineout on the Italians 22 metre line. It was from this lineout, that the blindside winger Oisin Leahy barged his way through the defense and slide in under the posts to reestablish Connacht’s lead. Lowndes duly converted for a 12-5 score, half an hour into the contest.

Connacht had a number of good performers, with Ireland U19 international lock Cian Romaine impressing, as well as Lowdnes and flanker Alex Penny, while outhalf Matteo Minozzi was the Italian standout, with fullback Luca Spearandio and winger Yanick Agbasse also playing well.

In fact, it was Lowdnes who instigated the most enterprising play of the game. Off a quick tap inside his own 22m line, another gruber through two defenders, only to collect it himself a step or two later. He then fed the support runner in McGivney, with further Connacht players supporting well. The play was ultimately ended with a knock on, but it was the most exciting piece of skill in the match.

Just a minute later, Ben Ridgeway ran turnover possession from his own 22m, going the full 80 metres to dot down under the sticks. Lowndes converting for a 19-5 lead. There wasn’t long left of the first half, and the Italians were threatening. Their maul was utterly dominant, and they had a substantial amount of pressure on the Connacht try line. Eventually the ball was forced over the line, for a half time score of Connacht 19-12 Italy.

Substitions were abound in the second half, contributing to a stop-start forty minutes. Aidan Moynihan made it 22-12 early in the second half with a penalty, and no real further chances were afforded to either side. There was a few knocks and bruises sustained from both sides, with Cian Romaine hobbling off with a calf issue near the end.

The substitions seemed to favour Connacht, and the finished the game in control, with Ridgeway missing the final chance to score from a penalty. Full time at the Sportsground and Connacht U20s have something encouraging to build on in the lead up to the Interprovincial games.

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