The Ireland Under-20s won a bruising battle with Scotland 24-20 to set up a Pool C decider with New Zealand on Wednesday in the World Rugby U-20 Championship.
Scotland were the early aggressors in the 30-plus degree heat with Robbie Nairn breaking through on the right to almost create a try for his back-three colleague Ruairi Howarth. But it was to be a day of missed opportunities for Sean Lineen’s charges.
The Scottish pack, whose maul was a big weapon in the sides’ March meeting, enjoyed a promising spell as they won a series of scrum and maul penalties near the right corner. However, Ireland managed to lift the siege with a hack downfield from Stephen Fitzgerald.
Carbery’s accurate kicking out of hand settled Ireland down and from a much-improved 12th-minute scrum, they conjured up their first try of the tournament. Quick ball out to the left sent Ringrose haring through a gap outside the 22 and he passed for the supporting Dardis to race away and score in the corner.
Carbery narrowly missed the difficult conversion and after a couple of handling errors from the Scots, he nailed a 21st minute penalty following good running from himself, Ringrose and Oliver.
Lock David O’Connor produced an important tackle to prevent Scottish scrum half George Horne from slipping through in the Irish 22, and Ireland showed their clinical edge when punishing another error from their opponents on the half hour mark.
Howarth conceded a lineout from a probing Sam Arnold kick and after the Irish maul made some yards towards the right of the posts and Dardis threatened near the touchline, flanker Oliver broke through a tackle off the side of a ruck and was not held as he got up to score try number two. Carbery added the extras for 15-0.
Although Scotland again exerted a good deal of pressure approaching the interval, determined Irish defending and their own handling errors thwarted them. It meant they had to settle for a late three-pointer from Horne.
There was still time in the first half for Ireland to press for a further try, though, as an Andrew Porter rip in the tackle almost led to captain Nick McCarthy scoring out wide. In the final seconds, loosehead Porter, who got through a huge amount of work, also knocked on in contact close to the posts.
Carbery and Horne swapped early penalties in the second period and just when Scotland appeared likely to score a try, a frustrating knock-on ruined some good initial carrying from forwards Scott Cummings and Zander Ferguson.
Replacement back rower Knott was inches away from scoring soon after, losing control of the ball after making a fine break from a lineout. Ciaran Gaffney and Arnold came to Ireland’s rescue by hauling him down.
Ireland’s defensive workload increased as the minutes ticked by and Scotland continued to probe for openings. Replacement prop Conan O’Donnell got his boot to the ball to break up a dangerous Scottish attack and some brilliant breakdown work from Porter produced a relieving penalty.
Lineout issues, allied to a mounting penalty count against them, prevented Ireland from building any decent attacks and Scotland deservedly got over the whitewash in the 63rd minute, a lineout maul sending lock Carmichael over in the left corner.
Blair Kinghorn added a tremendous conversion from out wide, cutting the gap to 18-13. Tellingly, Ireland upped the intensity from the restart and Oliver got over a ruck to win a penalty on the 22-metre line which Carbery sent through the uprights.
Scotland responded with a surging midfield run from winger Alec Coombes, Ireland once more scrambled back in quick fashion but Oliver was pinged for a ruck offence and sent to the sin-bin.
Quinlan landed his second penalty of the tournament with two minutes remaining, following up on some evasive running from Gaffney, Fitzgerald and replacement Jacob Stockdale. The Irish bench was emptied with prop Liam O’Connor winning his first cap.
Ireland were sloppy in allowing Knott to crash over in injury-time. The defence will certainly have to be tightened up for the midweek showdown with the Baby Blacks.