U20s 6N: Young Scots shut out as miserable campaign ends with heavy loss to Ireland

Kenny Murray's side finish bottom of the pile after a winless championship

Scotland's Jack Brown is tackled by Wilhelm de Klerk of Ireland during the Six Nations u20s match in Cork (Photo by Laszlo Geczo / Inpho)

Ireland 36

Scotland 0

THESE are difficult times for Scottish rugby at under-20 level, an era when victory in the Six Nations championship looks to be almost unattainable.

That said, the young Scots can return from Ireland with a smidgeon of pride even if the scoreline against Ireland at the Virgin Media Park in Cork might suggest otherwise.

Compared to last season’s embarrassing 80 pointer at Scotstoun, this was a less damaging result than many had feared and perhaps offers signs, albeit tiny, that a corner may have been turned.

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Scotland’s coach Kenny Murray had berated his charges for letting in soft tries against Italy last weekend.

That criticism could not be levelled at the young Scots on this occasion after a display of committed defence that for long periods in the game kept what is a very successful Ireland team drawn from the cream of a large talent pool, at arms length.

Inevitably Ireland’s strength, and particularly that of the bench, told in the final 15 minutes when Ireland were able to score 21 points.

But given what Ireland have achieved against some very good international teams this season it is to the Scots’ credit that they, at least, managed to contain a very skilful and potent Irish backline.

In the circumstances Ireland had to look to their forward pack to garner points, all four of their second half tries scored from close range by the beefy players up front.

Murray acknowledged his players’ efforts in the first half when they limited Ireland to just one try.

He said: “The boys were playing in front of 10,000 against a team going for the championship.

“I asked them to go out there and be brave and I thought they were outstanding.

“They struggled to break us down in that first half.

“We ran out of steam a little bit in the second half and then there was the yellow card. I can’t fault the boys’ effort in the first 50 minutes.

“We’re disappointed at losing games, but in amongst results performances get lost.

“There were a lot of good performances in the Six Nations matches this year.

“We never got the 80 minute games we were looking for.

“We beat France and England in the second halves which we’ve never done before.

“We’re looking forward to the Junior World Trophy [hosted by Scotland in July]; I think we’ve got a really good group of players and we’ve got a few guys coming back from injury.”

Impressive for Scotland was flanker Freddy Douglas, who achieved a shoal of turnovers early in the game that frustrated Ireland.

But plaudits must go to the entire Scotland pack who fronted up well against a strong Ireland eight.

Behind the scrum, defence was again the stronger suit, with the attacking side of the Scots’ game disrupted by the loss of stand-off Isaac Coates, who suffered a hamstring strain in the captain’s run.

In the event, Andy McLean filled the ten jersey, posting a competent display for one who has not played much at stand-off this season.

Elsewhere in the backs, John Ventisei, who played two seasons for Scotland at u18 level, looked the part and along with co centre Findlay Thomson defended well against the much lauded Irish pairing of Hugh Gavin and Wilhelm de Klerk.



If Scotland needed a chance to prove themselves after what has been a difficult campaign then the opening quarter laid on ample opportunities, allowing the young Scots to show their mettle in defence, with several crucial turnovers by Douglas and some shuddering tackles from his cohorts that checked Ireland’s ambitions.

But just seconds into the second 20-minute period, Ireland struck decisively, using ball spilled by debutant full-back Jack Brown to launch an attack that ended with flanker Bryn Walker laying on the scoring pass for wing Hugo McLaughlin to race over in the corner.

From wide out, stand-off Jack Murphy nailed the conversion to give Ireland a 7-0 lead.

A short time later, Scotland made a change in the front-row with Robbie Deans replacing Callum Smyth. It proved a good substitution with the visitors’ scrum benefitting from the experience of the former Merchiston prop, and in the process winning two penalties from the set-piece confrontation.

Scotland should have made more of pressure on the Ireland line with pick-and-drive surges from short range but ultimately Ireland’s goal-line defence remained firm.

Having survived a scare on their own line, Ireland pressed for a second try but again Scotland’s aggressive defence thwarted the home side’s attempts to breach their opponents’ line.

Then, with the clock showing red at the end of the first half, Ireland attacked from a five metre line-out but when they finally moved the ball, Scotland defence was up to the challenge of stopping their opponents and again it was Douglas who did the damage with a trademark turnover, leaving his side trailing the defending champions by a respectable 0-7 at the break.



Ireland were kept at bay early in the second half but when prop Patrice Bell was brought off the bench, the home pack won a scrum penalty allowing Murphy to kick his second goal for a 10-0 lead.

The men in green, sensing that they might be moving into the ascendancy, piled on further pressure but again Scotland survived with focussed defence.

Inevitably, Ireland’s relentless attacking had to tell and after a string of phases close to the Scotland line it was the Irish skipper Evan O’Connell who found a chink in the Scots’ armour to crash over for an unconverted try.

Then, when replacement back-row Monroe Job was sent to the sin-bin for needlessly preventing a fair kick after the mark, Scotland were put under an additional strain, which quickly told when Ireland again went through multiple phases before replacement hooker Danny Sheahan forced his way over his side’s third try, converted by Murphy.

Ireland now playing with greater confidence and using their forward strength to good advantage claimed their bonus point try again from close range and this time by flanker Sean Edogbo, converted faultlessly by Murphy.

The home side, realising that points difference might matter, chased a fifth try despite the clock being in red, and were rewarded with a second touchdown from Sheahan with the extra points predictably supplied by the accurate boot of Murphy to finish their season undefeated.


Teams –

Ireland: B O’Connor; F Treacy, W de Klerk (S Naughtoh 71) H Gavin (D Colbert 56), Hugo McLaughlin; J Murphy, O Coffey (T Brophy 74); A Usanov (B Howard 65), H Walker (D Sheahan 64), J Boyd (P Bell 48 ), J Hopes, E O’Connell (capt), S Edogbo, B Ward (B Corrigan 62), L Murphy (J McKillop 43)

Scotland: J Brown (Finn Douglas 65); F Doyle, J Ventisei, F Thomson (K Yule 62) , G Gwynn; A McLean, H Patterson (E Davey 61); C Smyth (R Deans 24), J Blyth-Lafferty (M Brogan 66), C Norrie (R Whitefield 66), E McVie, (A Clarke 63), R Hart, J Morris (M Job 66), Freddy Douglas, T Currie

Referee: Takehito Nawekama


Scorers –

Ireland: Tries: McLaughlin, Sheahan2, O’Connell, Edogbo; Cons: Murphy 4; Pen: Murphy.

Scotland: No scorers,

Scoring Sequence (Ireland first): 5-0; 7-0 (ht) 10-0; 15-0; 20-0; 22-0; 27-0; 29-0; 34-0; 36-0.


Yellow cards –

Scotland: Job

Six Nations: Ireland v Scotland preview: Dublin is no place to go looking for redemption

About Alan Lorimer 349 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.


  1. Complete silence on the future of Kenny Murray and the rest of his coaching team, so probably safe to assume that he’ll still be in charge going into the summer. I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, given it’s a SRU decision – they don’t get much right.

    Same coaches and same players to be rewarded for continued failure. The future doesn’t look good.

  2. Ok another failed 6 Nations. The rights and wrongs with the Academy are for a much bigger conversation and hopefully the right people selected to discuss and put in place the changes that are undoubtedly needed will be put in place. More urgent is the next competition for the 20 to regain their position in the top tier. There is enough time to change the whole coaching set up who are currently with the 20s as most of them have had two campaigns and an opportunity to get Scotland promoted back to the top tier. Murray has failed again and can BS all he wants about playing well in a 0 drubbing. How many chances does he and his coaching team get. There is time to change the whole lot of them to get the players ready for the next competition it can get any worse. But I believe as many fear they will do nothing have their debrief and blame everything else apart from themselves.

    • Correct. Abject failure over the last three competitions, you can’t clear out the players, but you can most certainly have a clear out of the coaching staff. They simply haven’t earned the right to lead the squad into another campaign.

  3. we wasted the super 6 it should have been an under 23 league and we could have our under 18 and 20s in better condition our coaches were more interested in winning a nothing comp instead of developing our young players

  4. If the team were outstanding when scoring zero points just think how brilliant they will be if they manage to knock over a penalty next time!

  5. The SRU are out of their depth. The pathways program is a joke. I thought that introducing a FORSOC super team into the super 6 was brilliant. It have u20’s exposure to gnarly old pros and they benefited.
    France U20 team have 240 Pro 14 games between them. Scotland U20 has 1 player who played URC for 10mins. Explain SRU

  6. Most decry the bad effecrs of only having 2 pro teams in Scotland. Also that the youth coming through cannot get game time.
    So WHY, does the SRU insist in an 10 team top league. That only cuts opportunities for a system to grow. It will be cut throat next year as 3 teams go down. So NO club is going to give chances to the youth to go against hardened vets!
    Why not have a 2 section 10 team leagues, then a play off at the end for the winners and relegation.
    Much more scope to invest in youth and playing time. The cream will rise to the top.

      • Cause the thumbs down people dont have the capacity or concern to point out the failings of the opinion. Sums up the apathetic attitude of Scottish rugby supporters.
        That thumbs down person might have the eureka moment for the SRU.
        But I doubt it.

      • I’m wondering how the current u20 squad would fare in the Prem? My guess would be mid-table at best…

    • Recent seasons with 12 team leagues has resulted in league games in May. Add in cup games and District fixtures, there aren’t enough dates to complete these. That’s why.

      10 team conferences have been tried before. When it was clubs had to be moved between conferences to even then up.

      • Hi Dom, dont get your logic.
        12 team league, means 4 extra games. But the SRU have decided to play league deciders at the end of the league campaign( for what reason, nobody understands) that puts extra games on the season anyway.
        The whole point to have more teams in the league is to allow more game time for youths. If half way through season and the club is not going to be a contender for the league nor relegation, then the clubs have opportunities to season their youth players for the following season, with no detrimental effect on the club.
        You suggest that we play 9 other teams then replay the top 4 AGAIN. Is boring. Look at the successful FOOTBALL leagues around Europe. NOBODY DOES THIS. So WHY DOES the SRU think they have come up with some genius idea that nobody else uses?
        I can understand if there is such a vast skill level, that it will be dangerous. But I dont think that is a problem with the top 18 – 22 Clubs in Scotland.
        For example, Marr eventually beat Watsonians after a close contest. Marr top of Prem v Watsonians mid table Nat 1. ( that is 1st 15 nat1 players before super 6 players come in.) So where do these capable 1st 15 players play when super 6 players come down.( remember they are capable to play against top of prem teams, AND where do the youths then fit in to this equation?)
        Conclusion, not enough teams playing at top stifles progress!
        Send the SRU home to think again!

    • Clubs were told by paid the employees at Murrayfield that the Premiership was not fit for the purpose of developing the next crop of youngsters for Pro rugby. The paid employees then introduced Super 6, and Clubs went about organising their league structure to suit their needs.

      Fast forward a few years (just a couple of weeks ago), and now the paid employees at Murrayfield have decided that Super 6 is not fit for purpose. The Club game as a result has very quickly had to restructure their leagues to accommodate that decision – taking into account that Murrayfield will be keeping hold of the Super 6 monies for their own new structure to develop the next generation of pro players – Clubs have little say in what that structure will be.

    • Maybe too radical an idea but why not stipulate that every team in all five national leagues have to have at least two (or even three) U20 players in their match day squads, with these U20 players having to play at least 30 (or 40) minutes each game. To ensure teams develop more than just two U20 players, no same U20 player can take up one of the U20 squad slots in more than two consecutive games (i.e. each club will need to have at least 4 – 5 U20s to fulfil this commitment, but also if an U20 is a first choice for the team then they can continuously play but can’t then take up one of the U20 squad slots). Clubs will be able to co-register U20 players from teams in lower leagues so every team can fulfill this commitment & not be unfairly penalised. This proposal would certainly create far more focus on developing youth rugby.

  7. Freddie Douglas is a good example of what everyone is talking about. Sending him back to play amateur rugby is nonsense. He need to be moved into a pro environment now in order to continue to progress. In the end the issue is where the SRU put the money, 1) we’d probably collectively agree who out of the bunch can be good pros and kick on – so make them pros now 2) the club game is not the place for the best young players to develop – they need to be in near full time academies and playing competitive matches academy v academy domestically and against equivalent sides in other countries 3) the pool of players in that set up should be cast wide and those not selected should not be neglected so if someone does show up well in domestic rugby they should be able to play their way into an academy. We don’t even have to be original in this space we can clearly see what has worked for other unions!

  8. I thought he boys put in an excellent effort last night. The very good, well-coached defence constantky disrupted Irish attaqcks. The pack marched the Irish scrum backwards a couple of times and mauled well, we were easily their equal in the forwards, despite them having some big tough lads. Our lineouts were good and I think we nicked two of their throws.
    The backs played well, we have quite a few promising young men there. McLean did well to step up at 10 in Coates enforced absence and looks one for the future.

    Most of the game was played in Scotland’s half. Our attack was good but we didn’t make much headway against the quick Irish defence. We maybe took the wrong option a couple of times when we were camped on the Irish line, our phase play was threatening a score but we shifted the ball out to the backs who the Irish defence closed down.

    We seemed to get pinged continually for minor and unintended infringements, that didn’t help much. The boys were running out of puff a bit towards the end and the Irish bench turned the screw.

    They were a bigger team physically and their boys had the experience of a lot of Pro A games. Our side had nothing like that.

    I didn’t see much that indicated the coaching was at fault, they actually looked more cohesive and more determined than GT’s charges. Certainly, the forward and defence coaches had clearly done a very good job and I wouldn’t fault the backs play or gameplay.

    We do need the U18 and U20 boys playing in a useful number of Pro A games, so they begin to get some experience of competitive rugby at this level, which is a much higher bar than S6.

  9. Brave physical defence until worn down midway into the 2nd half. Strong set piece performance particularly in scrummage once tactical replacement made. The NIL indicates the very poor attack. Opportunities to kick penalties in the first half were not taken. The post match comments by the coach can only be described as incredible.

    • You didn’t think last night was ‘outstanding’ then? 😊 Has there ever been a rugby coach that has described any element of a 36-0 defeat as being ‘outstanding’?

      I cringe when I see comments like that.

  10. Youth rugby is a bit of an arms race and we’ve been miles behind recently. Italy are basically professional from U17, Ireland have a schools system and provincial academies that are very professional, France, England have their 1st academy intakes at U14.
    I think the commonality in tactics, techniques, conditioning and exposure to high intensity rugby these systems give players shows in results where we’ve competed or even won long periods of the games then been blown away.
    There are some good players in this group and if they make it to the professional game they’ll catch up but not competing at this level will stick.
    The union is making more money than ever. All of it should go into this.

    • Some decent points apart from your last sentence. The SRU I’m afraid lost £10 m last year so we don’t have endless money to throw at the game although perhaps it’s more about spending wisely rather than having more.

      • I think there’s a recognition that the best youth systems are those which get the best juniors into intensive rugby aged 14-17.
        Not sure how much to read into the losses. Clearly not sustainable but much of it down to extraordinary investment. There’s a new governance structure and personnel. We’ll see.

  11. My understanding is that the u20 squad is picked from 60 elite academy players u19 and u20 who are aligned to Edinburgh and Glasgow, a Scottish qualified player pool from all over world, players of national interest that may have gone to further education rather than focus on playing rugby in Scotland and club players and others who might come to the attention via district games etc . Surely it is not impossible to select a quality 23 from that large number who can be more competitive than the odd half here and there and more importantly be capable of beating countries like Uruguay Spain Japan Portugal. The u20 age grade has never been brilliant. Consistently 8-10th place in world I think until relegation in 2019. I do think the player quality is there. The current head coach has I think won 4 games out of a possible 19 6 nations and world trophy games and whichever way you look at it he and his fellow coaches are surely not getting the best out of the talent pool. Whether it is selection or tactics or both. Confidence must be at an all time low and surely it is time for change at coach level as it is simply not working.

    • We have both in RWC n pre S6 beat English 28 nil…..in u21 era we won grand slam. This servile nonsense of ‘we’ve always been rubbish shouldn’t expect to b better’ used to to be Ireland attitude…..look what they’ve done once they got rid of the loser attitude. Other nations develop players to be pros at 17 or 18….we won’t pick 24 yr olds at pro level. Look at likes of Patterson n Trotter. Excellent players but starved of game time. The notion that this has been an improved season is laughable. It was a whitewash FFS. Of the current crop only Douglas has any prospect of being a pro…. England n France put a chunk of their u20s straight into senior national squad immediately. Our woes are entirely self generated with a development system that is complete broken, a selection system based on deleting 15 yr olds, rampant nepotism and hopelessly bad coaching. Players barely get 10 competitive games a season from 16s upwards whereas other nations have their players battling every single week.Its not true to claim we are genetically smaller than other nations….our lack of power fitness speed and skills come from awful coaching. The players do their best but the systems let them down and 10 years ago this was being predicted but too many on here are too servile to try to improve. Easier to buy foreigners and pretend all is well. Feel sorry for the guys who are being picked ahead of much better club players tbf. There are a couple who have started every game despite being miles off and it’s frankly horrible to do that to anyone.

      • Freddie Douglas has certainly been the regular standout player of the team, especially for his jackalling abilities, but he needs to improve in quite a lot of other areas if he’s to break into the pro ranks & displace the present high quality incumbents. That’s not to say he won’t as he’s still very young.
        The other players that have particularly stood out for me have been Robbie Deans & Elliot Young (before getting injured). Deans has been hugely impressive in scrummaging & around the park, & if he continues developing at the same rate, & remains relatively injury free, then will have a hugely successful pro career.

    • The problem is, we don’t have a large number to choose from, in fact we have a very small pool of age-grade players compared to our Tier 1 opponents, on fact I think the smallest by some way.

      Problem is we have very few state schools playing regular rugby and the Youth teams don’t really add to the numbers, as they are just fielding a few of the many schoolboys who would otherwise be turning out for school sides.

      Until we fix the school supply side, which the SRU has not done much to improve, we are destined to go on picking age grade teams from a far too small coterie of players.

      Even if the SRU had the will and resources to implement a fix, they duck the issue because it will just lead to the usual fury from clubs to any hint that schools rugby needs to be the priority.

  12. Watch that match then watch the France/England match, it’s light years away the size and power of the forwards is incredible for this age… make no mistake Scotland gave their all again but we simply can’t match the bulk of the top four teams (yes Italy have come from nowhere to join the top four…through application and talent Id !) I looked last night and Our 8 looked normal sized( and I’ve never seen him look that way physically before) thought the pack did as well as I’ve seen them cohesive, defended together as a pack Douglas outstanding again Deans has answered a lot of critics this tournament ( he must of done as they’ve moved onto their chosen other targets !) everything seems to of gone against us this tournament critical injuries, bounce of the ball, penalty loving referees, dozey mistakes. even our one winnable game being first up and away… all in all everything was against us… but through it all the boys have given everything for their shirts. It needs a big change for me in the coaching set up, just for new impetus more than anything… and please stop the incessant box kicking even England no longer do it !

    • Italy haven’t really come from nowhere they set up 4 residential academies to hothouse their top 130 U17s.
      They then cut the numbers down by 2/3 at U20 who play professionally in their series A.
      If they look better conditioned it’s because they’ve been in a very intense and uniform set up for 3 or 4 seasons.

      They’re dismantling this system and going back to regional academies after protest from the clubs btw.

    • France v England was quite a watch – we seemed to lose the ball after 2 phases or run out of ideas whereas that match had players running into space taking the ball moving with a 9 varying his passing game. Agree re the box kicks – we didn’t exactly move the Irish defence. Unfortunately rugby selection is defined by body shape and bulk not skill and Scotland don’t have that in bulk.

  13. I’m not sure they have turned a corner but it looked well into the second half before the Flood-gates opened and the frankly dumb Yellow card really took the wind out of their sails.
    Certainly some of the lads will get a chance of progressing but still were those basic mistakes, that must be addressed before the Trophy Competition in the summer, is this the time to change the coaching staff or supplement it?
    Frankly I just don’t know, I’m sure there are many better placed than me who will have names in mind but as I questioned, is there time, a change should have been made earlier if it was to be made at all.
    Although it looked a more competent defensive performance some of the decisions such as the 4th scrum on their line was just the time to quick in and out to the backs you don’t loose much puff and blow going backwards as opposed to the effort of driving the opposition off the ball, and the Yellow card, up till then I always thought they might get a consolation try which I think they deserved.
    I thought the Irish commentators who were even handed and quick to praise the Scots especially in the first half, no waffle or cliché, just a decent commentary: at last.
    Finally hope this evening will be less painful than last Saturday, but it will take a huge effort.

    • Interesting to see Rob Howley in the coaching box for Wales v Italy. Whether there isn’t an opportunity to involve recent former players in a wider coaching group. The experience and knowledge of someone like John Barclay might be a useful voice to have around the squad? We seemed to depower the scrum with substitutions and also lost the next 2 lineouts after subbing the hooker having not any till that point. As from another I always wonder about what appears automatic subbings do coaches not consider what is in front of them rather than just the pre match plan. Thought Rome was an example of weakening a team from the bench.

  14. Common theme, here “mass and conditioning” Scotland always pick players junior/ senior who can run all day, yet who get run over. Relative Fitness rarely wins matches at elite level, the old adage applies The fatties decide who wins the game the backs by how much, this basic seems to have eluded Toonie and SRU for generations. Not saying players don’t have to be fit, look at France senior side, last weekend, they emptied the bench in second half brought on even more juggernauts up front and literally smashed the tiny by comparison Welsh pack. In the end it was an embarrassing rout. The world cup won addmitedly narrowly by giant Bokka pack. Mass counts, it always will be the deciding factor.

  15. Just watched the match here in Oz.
    The defence was tremendous but no attack visible as they weren’t allowed any chances.
    Glancing at the screen,it looked as if the Irish were 20kg,10cm and 2 years older per man. It was only in close up that you could see the Irish were young lads as well.
    Not sure what the solution is. It’s above my pay grade. Sorry

  16. This was the best of the 6-nations championship for this squad. They demonstrated real grit and purpose for the first 60 minutes then unfortunately lost their way. As everyone says they need more experience and nous. But we only have 2 professional teams in the country.
    Very proud of these guys for what they did today. Yes there is light at the end of the tunnel for Kenny Murray.

    • @John. 120 minutes of rugby without registering a point, while conceding 76, and you’re describing it as ‘light at the end of the tunnel’?

      Having watched every game, a couple of the forwards look real prospects, but beyond that it’s not looking great. The backs barely created a thing across 5 games – you have to look at the coaching when a whole unit looks so ineffective.

  17. Defended better today, but barely entered the Irish 22. It seemed to be that the main aim was damage limitation, which was probably wise.

    The stats are there though, the last 120 minutes of rugby against Italy and Ireland were lost 76-0, worryingly bad. Kenny Murray is grasping at straws when he describes any part of that as ‘outstanding’, or winning half’s as being progress – it’s embarrassing frankly.

  18. Lots of wonderful bravery and some good shape in attack and defence, but miles away in athleticism and physicality. So defensive shape can’t be maintained and line can’t be broken. I wonder if 20s should just play from everywhere. You can learn shape quickly, but it’s not getting results. So play coast to coast, try to offload at every opportunity. Just play to entertain. Portugal at World Cup a pretty good template

    • Defended with all they had, but barely registered an attack. The forwards unit is clearly the stronger, with the backs really lacking any creativity or threat throughout the tournament. The last 120 minutes of rugby have been lost 76-0, I really struggle to take anything positive from that.

      • When the coaches understand the game is played north to south and not side to side in attack, then will be a change! The same issue is with U18s !
        There was an improvement which is nice to see thou, at least in the pack…

  19. There was a lot to be proud of in that performance. The final.score does not tell the story of the match. This squad has stuck in through some really tough times and should go into the summer tournament with some optimism. Freddy Douglas looks some prospect.

  20. Watched the match and thought the physicality and intent were good. But it’s glaringly obvious our players don’t play enough matches at a comparable or pro level. We are relying on individuals and not tactics or set plays. Players are being badly let down by a lack of preparation and games. We need the pro sides to have development teams that allow these guys to play against other pro sides. Amateur rugby is clearly miles off the preparation needed.


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