U20 | REPORT | Ireland 30 - 25 Scotland

Despite a courageous second-half performance, which saw Scotland score two quick-fire tries to claw into Ireland’s 18-3 first-half advantage, the age-grade side had to eventually settle for a losing bonus-point as the hosts bruised their way over the finish line to secure the tightest of victories.

Scotland came into this evening’s U20 Six Nations clash at Donnybrook searching for their first-ever win on Irish soil, and after 30 minutes on the clock it looked as though they would be waiting another two years for a chance to dispel their Celtic hoodoo.

However, when Martin Hughes emphatically finished in the 59th minute, Scotland were brought within five points of Ireland’s lead and were in the same instance given a new attacking lease of life.

But, with the match in the balance, and Scotland looking the more likely to finish the clash on top, Ireland’s Jack O’Sullivan scampered under the posts to provide a crushing blow.

Replacement, Nathan McBeth, did salvage a losing bonus-point for Scotland in the dying moments – which could be crucial in the bid to finish above Italy - but in truth, the age-grade outfit will be frustrated that they could not come away with maximum points.

Scotland Head Coach Stevie Scott, said: “I’m really disappointed that we didn’t come away with a result - I think we deserved to win that game.”

“We got off to a poor start: I thought in the first 20 minutes we were slow out of the blocks.

We built into the game after that and we had that belief at half-time that we could win the game. We won the second half 19-12, but unfortunately gave away a score in the last 10 minutes.

“In the first-quarter we just coughed up the ball too much, but in that period in the second half we didn’t turn over the ball as much, which allowed us to put some pressure on them.

“I’m really pleased with the squad. They’re just desperate to get better, and the more they can play games like this, the better they’re going to get.”

With the rain lashing onto Donnybrook’s artificial surface at kick-off, Scotland started the match in sluggish fashion and the hosts soon made them pay.

Firstly, number eight O’Sullivan – who impressed in the loose all evening – barreled his way over the whitewash after only three minutes, before stand-off Harry Byrne slotted home a pair of simple penalties to give his side a commanding thirteen-point lead.

Scotland could have, perhaps, crumbled – but with stand-off Ross Thompson leading the line and winger Kyle Rowe proving go-forward in the wide channels, the age-grade side battled back. Thompson would split the uprights with two penalties of his own to get his side back in the battle.

Scotland continued to fight, but when captain Robbie Smith had to be taken off with an ankle injury, there was a noticeable defensive disruption – which Ireland’s Matthew Agnew took advantage of. With time expiring in the first-half, the openside barreled over for the easiest of scores.

Scotland’s fortunes would change in the second-period, however, and when Kyle Rowe finished off his own chip-and-chase – which was aided by an Irish defensive mishap – the visitors had turned the match on its head.

Pick-and-goes, which in the first half had fizzled into lost yards, were now building momentum and when Martin Hughes finished off a powerful lineout drive for his side’s second score of the evening, Donnybrook was shook. The score read 23-18 and Scotland were in whiskers of a snatch-and-grab victory.

Rugby can be a cruel game, however, and when O’Sullivan dashed over from 20 metres out to provide the coup de grace, the match was all but over.

McBeth – a second half replacement – did provide some last-minute delight with a losing bonus-point securing push over try, but Scotland will be wondering what could have been after such a daring second-half performance.