Scotland signed off their 2015 World Rugby Under-20 Championship on a sour note after losing to Ireland for a second time in the tournament in yesterday’s seventh/eighth play-off encounter at Viadana.
The young Scots finish in their highest overall position with an eighth ranking which will affect their seeding for next year but the aim yesterday was to build on the win over Argentina and secure victory against the Irish.
Scotland fell rather short of achieving their objective after failing to convert first-half scoring chances and were unable to exert the forward dominance against their opponents that they had enjoyed in the first meeting with the men in green.
“We missed chances and that’s been the story of this tournament for us,” said Sean Lineen, the Scotland Under-20 head coach. “The passes didn’t stick. We struggled to adapt to the Japanese referee. He seemed to have no idea about the contact area or the set scrum. Their driving just killed us.”
Ireland deserved their win if only because their backs, used sparingingly but effectively, were far more composed in possession and with much greater accuracy, the difference in skill sets suggesting a much more fundamental weakness in Scottish rugby at younger levels.
Yet it all looked to be going well for Scotland in the opening phases as the Scots took an early lead with a penalty goal by full-back Blair Kinghorn. However, the luck of the Irish then influenced the game when, from a speculate kick ahead, the ball bounced cruelly for Robbie Nairn and straight into the hands of Ireland winger Stephen Fitzgerald, who then romped in at the corner.
Crucially Ireland’s stand-off Joey Carberry kicked the touchline conversion goal to give Ireland a 7-3 lead. Scotland should have capitalised from a quickly-taken tap penalty by Ben Vellacott who scorched to the line only to be chopped down a metre short. But it was the lack of support that resulted in no dividend from the scrum-half’s break.
Then Richard Galloway set up a scoring chance with a break through the inside channel but with his pass to Vellacott just behind the scrum half another chance went begging.
A second penalty goal by Kinghorn brought some reward for Scottish endeavour, but Scotland should have made more of a driving maul close to the Ireland line just on half-time to expose yet another example of a missed opportunity.
A goal kick by Garry Ringrose, taking over from the injured Carberry, stretched Ireland’s lead and seemed to affect the Scots who lost two successive line-outs on their own throw. But a penalty goal by replacement scrum-half George Horne gave the Scots late hope only for Ireland to deliver a crushing blow with a clever try by Fitzgerald, and the conversion by Ringrose to give the Irish a thoroughly deserved win.