Unbeaten Ireland top pool to secure semi-final place at Under-20 World Championships

Ireland's Hugo Keenan scores his team's first try
Ireland's Hugo Keenan scores his team's first try

A try scoring bonus point win over Georgia secured Ireland top place in Pool A at the Under-20 World Championships in Manchester yesterday.

Having already defeated current World champions New Zealand and Six Nations Grand Slam champions Wales in their previous two games, Ireland secured their semi-final place with the win over the Georgians.

Ireland will now face Pool C winners Argentina in the semi-finals on Monday.

The South Americans caused an upset by defeating South Africa in their group.

The Baby Boks qualified as the best runners-up across the three pools and meet England who squeezed out Australia last night 17-13 to win Pool B.

It means defending champions New Zealand have failed to qualified for the main knockout stages for the first time in the history of the competition.

Ireland made 13 changes to the side which had beaten the baby All Blacks in their last outing, head coach Nigel Carolan taking the chance to give the full squad the opportunity to play at the championships.

But it also ensures he has kept his front line players fresh for the semi-final game as the Irish bid to reach the final for the first time at this age-group.

Vasil Lobzhanidze and Hugo Keenan swapped early tries, but the Georgians had a huge task on their hands after flanker Ilia Spanderashvili’s eight-minute dismissal.

Much-changed Ireland, ended the first half with a 20-7 lead, out-half Johnny McPhillips kicking two penalties and converting his own well-taken 36th-minute try.

The Queen’s flyhalf McPhillips finished with a handsome 18-point haul, which included the conversion of Terry Kennedy’s try on the hour mark, but it was until the final minute that the bonus point was secured by replacement prop Andrew Porter.

Stand-in captain Paul Kiernan admitted afterwards that Ireland had made ‘tough work’ of seeing off last year’s World Rugby U-20 Trophy champions whose pack made sure they remained competitive despite the loss of their blindside.

“We knew Georgia would be really physical and they really took it to us but in the end we were pleased to get the bonus point and move on,” admitted Kiernan.

“At half-time we weren’t very happy with our control of the game, we were giving away a lot of possession with nine turnovers at that time, but we got that right and started playing in the wide channels. I’m really proud of the boys.”