Harri Morris red card costly for Scotland in Under-20 Six Nations opener against Ireland

Scotland opened their Under-20 Six Nations campaign with a 38-7 defeat by Ireland in Cardiff.

Tensions flare after Ireland's Shane Jennings scores a try against Scotland during the Under-20 Six Nations match at Cardiff Arms Park. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire
Tensions flare after Ireland's Shane Jennings scores a try against Scotland during the Under-20 Six Nations match at Cardiff Arms Park. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire

Having matched their opponents in almost every facet of the game during the first 40 minutes, the young Scots suffered a grievous blow after just 25 seconds of the second half when flanker Harri Morris was sent off for colliding with Irish full-back Jamie Osborne as he jumped to collect a high ball. In that instant, the game changed from an evenly balanced contest into a battle for survival for Sean Lineen’s side. They ended up conceding four unanswered tries in the 39 and a half remaining minutes, but the head coach refused to blame the dismissal for his team’s heavy defeat.

“It wasn’t intentional, but it was reckless,” conceded Lineen. “It is unfortunate for Harri because he plays hard, but he isn’t dirty, and he’s absolutely gutted. Fortunately, the Irish player wasn’t injured and Harri apologised to him afterwards.

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“He’s a key player for us who was playing well, and after that it just got harder, but we can’t use the red card as an excuse because that happens in rugby, and we just didn’t deal with it well. Ireland, as Ireland do, took advantage of us being a man down, and were clever to work to the sides and exploit the gaps which inevitably opened up.”

Scotland's Elliot Gourlay, left, celebrates with Ben Muncaster after scoring his side's try against Ireland the Under-20 Six Nations. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire

“Having done this for a number of years, I know the lads will learn an awful lot from that,” he added. “It is game number one and a massive learning. We’re disappointed because we’re better than that. But we move onto England next Friday now and will prepare as best as we can.”

The match had started badly for Scotland and they found themselves seven points down inside three minutes after Irish flanker Alex Soroka rumbled over from close range following an excellent burst by his back-row compadre Oisin McCormack. However, they recovered well and drew level at the end of the first quarter when stand-off Cameron Scott poked a lovely grubber past Ireland’s rush defence for Elliot Gourlay to race onto and score.

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Lineen’s boys were unlucky to go in seven points down at the break because it was a freak rebound off Osborne’s head which led to Ireland’s second try with five minutes of the half remaining. The loose ball was hacked through to the Scottish in-goal area and winger Michael Gray ended up being yellow-carded and conceding a penalty try for tugging McCormack back as he raced for the score.

Ireland's Jamie Osborne is tackled by Scotland's Ollie Melville . Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire

The Scots were down, but by no means out – then the second half got off to that disastrous start.

“The coaches weren’t back in their seats after the break by the time Harri got his red-card,” said Lineen. “It is tough for a young group to deal with that, and I guess it did affect them.”

With Gray still in the sin-bin, Scotland we down to 13 men for the next five minutes, and Ireland took immediate advantage by kicking to the corner to create the platform for tighthead prop Sam Illo to rumble over.

It was, more or less, one-way traffic for the rest of the game, with further tries from Alex Kendellen, Shane Jennings and Osborne easing Ireland home.

Scorers. Scotland U20: Try: Gourlay. Con: Scott.

Ireland U20: Tries: Soroka, Penalty Try, Illo, Kendellen, Jennings, Osborne. Cons: Humphreys, Corkery 2.

Scotland U20: O Melville; F Callaghan (R Tait 45), S King, E Groulay, M Gray; C Scott (C Townsend 60), M Redpath (E McVicker 47); C Lamberton (M Jones 51), P Harrison (J Drummond 51), O Frostick (G Breese 45), M Williamson, A Samuel (E Ferrie 63), A Smeaton (O Leatherbarrow 61), H Morris B Muncaster.

Ireland U20: J Osborne; B Moxham, S Jennings, C Forde, J O’Connor (C Cosgrave 55); J Humphreys (T Corkery 28), C McKee (W Reilly 62); T Lasisi (J Boyle 58), R Loughnane (E de Buitlear 61), S Illo, M Morrissey, H Sheridan, A Soroka (R Crothers 46), O McCormack, A Kendellen.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)