Scotland U20s v Ireland report: heavy price paid for red-card

Plenty of positives from battling performance but sending-off of Harri Morris left young thistles with a mountain to climb

Scotland’s Archie Smeaton is wrapped up by Ireland's defence. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scotland’s Archie Smeaton is wrapped up by Ireland's defence. Image: © Craig Watson -

Scotland 7

Ireland 38

THE sending-off of openside flanker Harri Morris left Scotland under-powered for all but 30 seconds of the second half, and Ireland took full advantage to get their Under-20s Six Nations campaign off to a flying start.

The final score-line does not make for pretty reading from a Scottish perspective, but they should take encouragement from the fact that they were just about the better team for most of the first half, and also from the resilience they showed in that second period to keep it respectable. Over the course of the whole match, Scotland made 181 tackles to Ireland’s 107, which gives an indication of how deep Sean Lineen’s boys had to dig in.

Given how little competitive rugby most of these players have had during the last 15 months, both sides should be commended for producing such a high-quality match. The condensed format of this year’s championship means that there is now just six full days to recover, review and get ready to go again. The Scots face England next Friday, which will be another major test of ability and character.

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Ireland got off to a flyer when Oisin McCormack hit a great line to get put his team in the strike zone before flanking partner Alex Soroka eventually rumbled over several phases later, which set up a fairly straight forward conversion for James Humphreys – son of former Ulster and Ireland great David – to make it 7-0 with less than three minutes played.

It was an ominous start, but Scotland held their resolve and managed to square it at the end of the first quarter when stand-off Cameron Scott laced a neat grubber through Ireland’s aggressive defence for inside-centre Elliot Gourlay to gather and touch down in one smooth movement.

As the half wore on, Scotland looked increasingly comfortable and began to dominate possession. No8 Ben Muncaster was ferocious with ball in hand, while the half-back partnership of Murray Redpath and Scott pulled the strings masterfully.

But they suffered a sucker punch on 35 minutes when a flat Irish pass rebounded forward off full-back Jamie Osborne’s head and Scotland’s Ollie Melville failed to tidy up. McCormack hacked over the try-line and Scottish wing Michael Gray tugged the Irish flanker back as he dived in for the try. It went to the TMO but the outcome of a yellow card for Gray and a penalty try for Ireland was inevitable.

Melville almost made amends almost straight from the restart when he chased his own kick brilliantly, charged down Conor McKee’s clearance, and then wrestled Osborne over his own line to forced a scrum-five for Muncaster to mount another impressive assault from the base, but a knock-on at the next phase let Ireland off the hook.

clearance and then

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Scotland will have been frustrated but not discouraged to be seven points down at the break, but the second half got off to a disastrous start when Morris clattered into Osborne and upturned the Irish full-back as he rose to collect a high ball. It didn’t look malicious but was dangerous, and it was fortunate that the Irishman wasn’t badly hurt. There was no real complaints about the colour of the card, even if it was a shame that it transformed what was shaping up to be a tantalising contest into an exercise of damage limitation for Scotland.

Gray was still in the sin-bin at this point, and Ireland immediately capitalised on their two-man advantage by kicking to the corner and then powering over the line, with tight-head prop Sam Illo getting the downward pressure. At least Melville managed to charge-down the conversion, but a long 40 minutes was in store for the boys in blue.

With Ireland’s pack increasingly dominant, under-pressure Scotland struggled to escape their own 22, and it is to their enormous credit that they dug deep defensively to keep Ireland at bay until the 55th minute when captain and Alex Kendellen grounded the ball for the bonus-point try following another powerful line-out drive.

Christian Townsend came off the bench on the hour mark but didn’t get an opportunity to make his mark on the match before Shane Jennings cruised down the outside centre channel to score try number five for Ireland.

Replacement flanker Rhys Tait was heavily involved two or three times as Scotland mounted a brave revival with just under 15 minutes to go, but they couldn’t find a way through, and when they surrendered a holding on penalty, Ireland went the length of the field. It looked like Jennings had claimed his second try by the TMO revealed that he had knocked the ball forward as he dived on his own hack ahead.

Ireland finished with a flourish with Jennings and man-of-the-match Kendellen both involved before Osborne stretched over the line.

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Teams –

Scotland: 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: 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)


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Gourlay; Con: Scott.

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

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-14 (h-t); 7-19; 7-24; 7-29; 7-31, 7-36; 7-38.


Yellow cards –

Scotland: Gray (35mins)


Red cards –

Scotland: Morris (41mins)

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. No detail yet from the Six Nations report into on the Scotland u20 red card. So far the only information are the three-week bar and the three committee’s names. More detail is better cleaning in the judgement!

  2. I thought we were struggling to stay in the game before the red card, after it we paid. The Irish ability to enter rucks from the side or o front of ball carrier seems to be born into them, so constant quick ball is hard to defend

    Can’t argue either the red card or the yellow plus Pen try, but I do feel World rugby have to address players jumping to catch a ball – this one like others, was player running at full speed leaping forward and landing on another player. I get that the Scots lad had a duty to look at what is happening and avoid the Irish lad, but in cases like this it sometimes is impossible to avoid him landing on you unless you run away from the ball instead of towards it. As I say, def a red under current laws and guidelines, but we do need to look at the danger imposed on self and opponent by the catcher in situations like this

  3. Shame about the red card as Scotland were the better team 1st half and looked comfortable. Glad the young Irish lad was ok as it was a bad one. Ireland very lucky for 2nd try, the rule around it not being a knock on if the ball comes of the head needs to change-it doesn’t make any sense…


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