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The Interprovincial Championship 2016

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LEINSTER U18S EDGE OUT ITALY U18S 24 August 2016 18:01By EditorDonnybrook StadiumDonnybrook StadiumRamsey Cardy© SportsfileIt took everything the Leinster U18 Schools team had to overcome Italy U18s 27-19 on a perfect afternoon for rugby at Donnybrook on Wednesday. There was nothing too friendly about the opening exchanges as the Italians quickly warmed to the contest, barreling forward on the fringes. Leinster captain Ryan Baird took in their first attacking lineout which was turned back by a suffocating defence that claimed Sam Dardis’s offload. Then, a side entry into a ruck in support of wing Eoin Barr cost Leinster their position. No matter, lock Ronan Watters’ application of pressure was too much for out-half Pietro Gentile, forcing a blockdown, and centre David Ryan used his physique to win the race for the touchdown to convert for 7-0 in the eighth minute. They looked to improve through clever play down the blindside until Italy turned them over at the ruck for a penalty - for the second time. The Italian full-back Alberto Rossi was inclined to counter and this tempted Leinster up offside. Flanker Davide Ruggeri claimed the lineout and he was the man in the right position to bundle over when Leinster were slow to reload in defence. Rossi’s conversion made it all-square in the 16th minute. The visitors opted for position instead of points from a penalty and number eight Andrea Chianucci came agonisingly close to the lead try. The boys in blue came charging up the left through the sure hands of captain Baird and prop Niall McEniff, Dardis bundled into touch by wing Vittorio Dotti. The offloading skills of Baird put the three-quarters in gear, Adam La Grue almost getting away. Shortly after, the Terenure wing was inches away from getting in at the right corner as Leinster cranked up the pressure. The eagerness of blindside Reuben Pim forced fly-half Gentile to concede a five-metre scrum. A superb pick-up by La Grue from a Dardis pass was not rewarded. From the next set-piece, out-half Cormac Foley sent Ryan through a porous first-up midfield, the conversion taking it to 14-7 in the 31st minute. This was wiped out when the ball went to ground and Rossi whipped right to flummox a static defence in which no one reacted, the extras leaving both teams where they started on 14-all at the break. Leinster resumed with greater intensity, prop Michael Milne bursting through the middle and Ryan steaming up in support for fly-half Foley to nudge through a kick. From there, flanker Scott Penny got on the front-foot and Italy were exposed wide left, but for Dardis to just miss out the unopposed Barr. The athletic Pim stole a lineout and Penny cleared up a midfield mess as Leinster began with more clarity, at least as far as the 22. It took the direct approach of a sturdy maul with hooker Richie Bergin in the van to crack open Italy for 19-14 in

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the 50th minute. The game was turned on its’ head again when Italy put together one driving maul that splintered Leinster for hooker Giacomo Di Vietro to dot down. Baird proved to be the difference with his acceleration onto the ball to get in behind. The ball was cleaned and La Grue put replacement Sam Barry outside the last defender to make it 24-19 in the 64th minute. The cushion of a two-score lead arrived from the right boot of replacement Elliott Ryan when the Italians were called back for offside. U18 SCHOOLS BEGIN TITLE DEFENCE IN THOMOND PARK The U18 Schools Interprovincial Championship has undergone a restructuring on the back of the continuing absence of Connacht. The new system involves a home-and-away scenario between the holders Leinster, the 2015 winners Munster and Ulster. In addition, there is the welcome introduction of the positive system of four points for a win with a bonus point for four tries and another for losing by seven points or less. Leinster’s longtime dominance of this Age Grade competition was interrupted by Munster two years ago. It was with a stinging resolve that Leinster managed to wrestle it back last Autumn. “We got it back last year and it will be our aim to keep it,” said Leinster coach Jeff Carter. “We beat Munster in Donnybrook and Ulster up in the Belfast Harlequins grounds over the two matches”. “The new system is going to be challenging in the sense that it guarantees four games, all in a short turnaround,” continued Carter. “Munster and Ulster played on Friday and we start out against Munster on Tuesday at Thomond Park giving us four days to recover for Ulster on the Saturday (September 3)”. “It requires an enlarged squad and, probably, greater rotation of players due to the physical demands. However, it makes the whole competition more interesting in that you have four games instead of the two last year.” Leinster have been through what could be best described as experimental matches against their Clubs counterparts and Northampton as part of the process of arriving at their optimum outfit. The first serious hit out came last Wednesday when The Blues prevailed 27-19 against Italy Under-18s in what was a real learning experience. The lack of bulk up front was a problem against the traditional blunt force trauma the Italians brought around the fringes and at scrum time where the referee didn’t seem to understand the metre-and-a-half rule at this element of the set-piece. From this unsteady platform, Leinster struggled for the front-foot in order to unleash their three-quarter line which, even so, did not fire, wasting more than one simple overlap. Sad-

ly, Ireland Schools second row Charlie Ryan has long since given way to injury, leaving fellow lock Ryan Baird to lead the campaign. “Ryan is an outstanding leader. He’s got all the attributes you would look for,” added Carter, even though the St Michael’s will be available next year. There is international quality in the shape of tight-head prop Michael Milne, centre Liam Turner and out-half David Hawkshaw, just returned from an extended period away with the Dublin hurlers. “I think we need a lot more clarity in what we’re trying to do,” said Carter, in the aftermath of The Italian Job. Munster will certainly have everything to play for on the evidence of their stunning 18-15 victory over Ulster at Pirrie Park on Friday evening. This already has the appearance of a Championship decider, especially if the Men from the South can do the same to Leinster. Head coach Fiach O’Loughlin can call on an above average Munster collective with the back row of Colin Dean, their captain, Daniel Feasey and Mark Fleming setting the tone for their no-nonsense approach. “We will need that against Munster, especially at Thomond Park. That will be the challenge it always is.” The expansion of the competition has not done much to alter the view that a good start is more than half the battle. “It is huge. It will be Munster’s second game and they have a very capable side. It is vitally important that we start off on a high note before we return home to play Ulster at Donnybrook on the Saturday.” The Leinster U18 Schools v Munster takes place in Thomond Park on Tuesday 30th August, KO 14.30. U18 SCHOOLS LOSE OUT IN TIGHT MUNSTER BATTLE 31 August 2016 1 Leinster U18 SchoolsCormac Foley of Leinster is tackled by Daniel Feasey of Munster during the U18 Schools Interprovincial Series Round 1 game.Brendan Moran© SportsfileThe Munster Schools made it two wins from two in the Inter-Provincial Series in what was a ding-dong battle at Thomond Park on Tuesday. Coach Fiach O’Loughlin, the former Clontarf scrum-half, knows Leinster and Ulster, beaten 18-15 last Friday, will have to play catch up when they congregate at Donnybrook on Saturday. All is not lost for Leinster as they took a valuable losing bonus-point away from Munster in what was a game dominated by defences. Chances were few and far between with much of the game being fought out between the two 22-metre lines. It was give and take at the set-piece where Munster got the nudge on at scrum time and Leinster were smooth at the lineout off the throwing of Richie Bergin. There was nothing to separate the province all the way up past the half-hour mark when Munster wing Ben Moloney seized on an opportunity to break away for a try in the 32nd minute.

Leinster narrowed the gap to two when centre David Ryan struck a penalty in the 46 minute which was neutralised by Munster’s fly-half Ben Healy’s three in the 51st minute. The visitors were handed a lifeline when Munster replacement hooker George Downing was sent off with ten minutes left on the clock. However, Munster managed the endgame well enough to hold out at the death as Leinster created without applying the clinical edge to their finishing. “It was a very even contest. It could have gone either way. But, it didn’t go ours,” said Leinster coach Jeff Carter. The extended, home and away format this season means Leinster move on to Ulster with a first win a priority for both provinces as they take losing bonus points into round two. “There is an opportunity to play Munster again on the 24th of September. We have a short turnaround to Ulster on Saturday,” said Carter. “It will be just about managing players through to that game. We have a number of bumps and bruises.” Captain Ryan Baird cramped up badly and fellow lock Ronan Watters took a bang to the head which makes him a serious doubt for Ulster. “The way the results are going, at the moment, there is very little between the teams. We just need to sharpen up on our accuracy,” continued Carter. “We’re getting into good scoring zones and we’re just not coming away with points which is disappointing. We need to finish better.” U18 SCHOOLS SET UP SERIES DECIDER 19 September 2016 12:06 By Editoru The Leinster U18 Schools, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, will play Munster in a winner-takes-all showdown for the Interprovincial Championship at Donnybrook next Saturday, KO12.45. Jeff Carter’s boys made a good start more than half the battle to hold off their hosts Ulster at Methodist College in Belfast on Saturday afternoon.Coach Jeff Carter decided on a number of changes to bring renewed energy to the effort. It paid off from the start.Leinster controlled the ball and applied pressure that was good enough to pay the dividend of a penalty from scrum-half Elliot Ryan.The commitment was of the highest quality. The standard of execution did not quite match it against a tough-tackling Ulster defence.The weight of possession, territory and possession eventually uncovered a crack in the home defence and left wing Sam Barry did not have to be asked twice to bury the chance for an eight-point cushion at the interval.A second penalty from Ryan made it 11-0 in the 38th minute as Leinster looked like piling up the points.However, the concentration levels dipped to allow a penalty which Bruce Houston knocked over in the 40th minute. This was a warning sign on how Ulster were not going to sit back and wait for the visitors to come to them.The insistence of the guests on playing the ball out of defence was thwarted by

an interception by Stewart Moore for Houston’s conversion to leave one-point in it.The introduction of a cavalry of replacements gave Leinster the legs and the lungs to withstand Ulster’s surge.The next score could be decisive. It came from Leinster’s replacement scrum-half Conrad Daly without the conversion to make it a two-score game.The build of tension lasted right to the wire when centre David Ryan had the final say with Leinster’s third try to set up a championship decider against Munster at Donnybrook next Saturday.“It is a Cup final next week,” said Carter.“Munster are obviously the team to beat, at the moment. They have three wins and twelve points against our nine points. We need to win and deny them the bonus-point.“We’re confident we can put in a good performance. I think we have it in us.”“The attitude and commitment of the boys has been fantastic, especially after losing the first match to Munster.” U18 SCHOOLS TAKE INTERPRO TITLE 26 September 2016 10:42By EditorU18 Schools winning squadThe Leinster squad celebrate after the U18 Schools Interprovincial Series match between Leinster and Munster at Donnybrook Stadium.Matt Browne© SportsfileThe Leinster Schools, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, won the battle and, ultimately, the war by capturing the Under-18 Inter-provincial Series at Donnybrook on Saturday. It came down to the slimmest possible margin as Leinster and Munster had each won three and drawn one. It went down to points-difference with Leinster emerging with an overall total of +13 points against Munster’s +12. So, Leinster had a meagre two points to make up, as well as the win, to take care of business. But, it soon turned to five when Munster fly-half Ben Healy struck a penalty in the first minute. They came looking for more until wing Liam Turner pinched a penalty at the breakdown. It was a pretty hectic pace in the gentle rain as Leinster captain Ryan Baird took off up the right wing. His inside ball was taken in by Cian Prendergast and the flanker sensibly recycled the ball for out-half David Hawkshaw to step off his left foot and drive to the posts. David Ryan’s conversion turned the tables in the fifth minute. Full-back Jonathan Wren’s outside break forced an indiscretion to give Munster a 5-metre lineout which they wasted. Hawkshaw picked centre Sean French’s pocket and cleared his lines as Munster brought pressure and big runners. Healy’s ball on the floor forced Sam Dardis to boot to touch. Munster secured the lineout and centre Luke Fitzgerald came close, scrum-half Craig Casey closer still only to spill the forward in the act of diving for the line. It took a curious piece of refereeing for Healy to take advantage of a penalty to make it 7-6 in the 17th minute. Leinster were struggling for territory and this was not helped

when the restart flew out on the full. The educated pressure from Munster was suffocating the home side and tempting them into taking chances on a day when the weather made that a risky proposition. The Leinster forwards did well to repel a maul and then took one of their own for the best part of twenty metres to finally move into enemy territory. Another fast moving maul drew a penalty and Dardis twice went for the corner without any tangible reward. In response, Healy’s missile of a boot took Munster up to halfway. It needed a huge hit from captain Ryan Baird to dislodge the ball from centre French. here was something of a stalemate from there to half-time as the players struggled to handle the greasy conditions. On the restart, Leinster were swiftly into their phase play and a surge down the short side ended with Munster’s Ben Moloney seeing yellow for a deliberate slap down of the ball. This was the time to strike. A no-arms in the tackle on Hawkshaw gave Ryan a shot at goal, which he pulled left and wide Then, centre Cormac Foley broke through the middle without finding either of the two boys free to his left. The general trend of the game seemed to be turning in Leinster’s favour as Baird, Ruadhan Byron and Prendergast carried the fight. It took a turnover-into-penalty poach from replacement Mark Fleming to allow Healy to put Munster in the right area. They made the mistake of over-complicating their attack, the ball bouncing forward off Moloney. The referee’s attention was called for an off the ball incident which resulted in Munster’s French being binned. The urgency of Craig Casey from a tap penalty backfired when the ball went to ground and Dardis hacked ahead. Centre Foley kicked long and Munster coughed up a penalty from the follow up pressure by Ryan and wing Sam Barry for replacement Elliott Ryan to make it a four-point game on the hour. The over-eagerness of Colin Sisk handed a penalty to Leinster which Ryan could not get on target. It didn’t matter. Hawkshaw picked and probed from a ruck. Hooker Richie Bergin was in support and his offload was taken home by Ryan for 15-6 in the 65th minute. It looked like the decisive blow. But, Munster went into overdrive to manufacture a maul and an overlap for replacement Paul Clancy to finish, Healy landing the touchline conversion with a minute on the clock. The game ended in confusion, such was the closeness of the overall points-difference, Leinster claiming the trophy outright. “We are absolutely thrilled,” said Leinster coach Jeff Carter. “It couldn’t have been closer. We won it by just a point-difference of one. I’ve never been involved in such a dramatic finish in the six years I’ve been involved. “There were mistakes made. There were chances fluffed. But, I certainly couldn’t fault the effort, especially after losing the first game before coming back to win the next three. “I am delighted for all the boys. They showed real character. It is a great reward for all the work hard they have put in.”

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