Round 3 of the U20 Six Nations provided plenty of excitement as Ireland kept their Grand Slam hopes alive, France showed their class, and Wales and England played out the tightest of tight games.
Ireland beat Italy 34-14 at the Stadio Centro d’Italia, adding to their earlier wins over England and Scotland to leave them the only unbeaten side in the competition. Scrum half Craig Casey scoring a brace to help them towards a fairly comfortable win.
If that felt like a relatively normal game, the fixture between France and Scotland in Pau was anything but. France raced to a 21-0 lead only for Scotland to mount a brilliant comeback, scoring 22 unanswered points to claim a 22-21 lead.
However France are not reigning Six Nations and World champions for nothing and one of the stars of those two 2018 campaigns, Jordan Joseph, helped inspire his side back into control of the game, scoring a brace on the way to France’s total of six tries to Scotland’s five for a 42-27 victory, made to look all the more sizeable by their perfect six from six from the tee. Scotland, by contrast, only landed one.
Wales v England could scarcely have been more different to the other two games, as tries rained in over Italy and France, Wales was feeling positively old school with England leading just 3-0 at half time thanks to a Kieran Wilkinson penalty.
Not much changed after the break either, Wales took a 6-3 lead thanks to penalties from Cai Evans and with seventy minutes gone the scoreboard operator was certainly not feeling overburdened.
However in a sign of things to come later in the weekend, the last ten minutes finally saw the game break into life with drama right to the last. Exeter Chiefs number 8 Rus Tuima crossed for England, and with Newcastle Falcons’ Josh Hodge slotting the extras England led 10-6 with time running out fast.
In a game as tight as this, that felt like a huge lead, and England though they had all but sealed the game with two minutes to play when Sale Sharks’ Connor Doherty went flying over, only for the celebrations to be muted as the play was called back for an earlier infringement.
Time was just about up for Wales however the hosts fought their way to a dramatic late score for the victory as replacement Deon Smith, from the Dragons, crossed the whitewash with the clock well past the 80 minute mark, giving his side an 11-10 victory to put them third in the table and leave England with just one win from three.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com after the game England Head Coach Steve Bates reflected on the last gasp defeat:
“It’s very disappointing, we felt we created quite a lot of opportunities in the first half but that dominance did not show on the scoreboard. We had the try disallowed with two minutes on the clock and then probably made a couple of bad decisions which led to their score but that’s Test match rugby, it’s fine margins that can define games.”
“This is all good experience for these players’ development though and there are a lot disappointed players in the changing room but this defeat does not make them bad players.”
Coming Up – Friday 8th March
Ireland’s hunt for a Grand Slam continues in a fortnight’s time with a tough game at home to France. The winner of that game will be going a very long way towards claiming the U20 6 Nations title.
Wales meanwhile will be aiming to keep tough with the winner of that one, a victory away to Scotland would do just that, however Scotland are going to be going at this all guns blazing as they search to a first victory of the campaign and aim to steer clear of the Wooden Spoon.
England meanwhile host Italy at Bedford’s Goldington Road as they aim to get their campaign back on track after two defeats from their opening three games.
U20 6 Nations Results
France 42-27 Scotland
Italy 14-34 Ireland
Wales 11-10 England
England 31-19 France
Italy 12-42 Wales
Scotland 5-24 Ireland
France 32-10 Wales
Ireland 35-27 England
Scotland 22-32 Italy
U20 6 Nations Fixtures
England v Italy (Friday 8th March, 7.45pm, Bedford)
Ireland v France (Friday 8th March, 7.15pm, Cork)
Scotland v Wales (Friday 8th March, 7.30pm, Edinburgh)
England v Scotland (Friday 15th March, 7.45pm, Northampton)
Italy v France (Friday 15th March, 6pm, Piedmont)
Wales v Ireland (Friday 15th March, 7.05pm, Colwyn Bay)
U20 6 Nations Table