Irish power past Saxons in Churchill Cup finale
June 21, 2009
Ireland 'A' captured their first Churchill Cup crown with a convincing display against England Saxons
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Ireland 'A' clinched the 2009 Churchill Cup with a thumping 49-22 victory over England Saxons in the tournament finale at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado.
Declan Kidney's decision to rotate his squad paid off again as they recovered from a slow start to overpower their opponents with a confident six-try performance. Steven Myler kicked a third-minute penalty to give Stuart Lancaster's side a 3-0 lead and three minutes later the same player found the target from further out to give the Saxons a 6-0 advantage.
However, two minutes later Jonathan Sexton cut the deficit to three with a penalty of his own and six minutes later a concerted spell of Ireland pressure ended when Devon Toner scored the game's first try, which was converted by Sexton. Myler pulled England to within a point with his third penalty - after Saxons' Tom Varndell and Ireland's Johne Murphy tangled in the 18th minute after the latter had kept hold of the ball and prevented Micky Young getting on with the game.
Myler missed a more testing kick in the 22nd minute but two minutes later at the other end Isaac Boss crossed the line, Sexton converting for a 17-9 advantage.
On the half hour Myler reduced the deficit to five points with another successful kick - and both sides were reduced to 14 men in the 33rd minute when Ireland's Chris Henry and England's Dan Cole were sin-binned although England benefited from the situation as it happened after Ireland had been awarded a penalty - Henry allowing himself to be provoked into getting involved by Hooper.
England replaced Luke Narraway with Tom Mercey and in the 36th minute Sexton kicked a drop goal to put his side 20-12 ahead. The last action of the first half saw Myler narrowly kick a penalty from long range wide of the posts.
Ireland were easily the stronger side after the break - and they started strongly when they scored their third try within 24 seconds of the restart. A man down - with Sexton also in the sin-bin - Sean Cronin capitalised after Toner found him when Stuart Hooper and Nick Kennedy failed to collect a straightforward ball. The conversion by Fergus McFadden stretched Ireland's lead to 27-12.
England gave themselves hope when Ben Woods got the ball down in time in the corner, Ben Waldouck and Hooper spreading the ball wide for the Leicester man after Myler declined going for the posts with a penalty. However, the conversion attempt went wide. Niall O'Connor, who replaced Henry, missed a kick in 51st minute but the Irish did not have to wait long for more points as the impressive Felix Jones exploited gaps in the England defence to make it 32-17 - Sexton missed the conversion.
The best try of the game came just before the hour mark when Felix Jones collected a high ball and ran forward, feeding McFadden, who in turn found Murphy. McFadden's conversion made it 39-17. Danny Cipriani and Shane Geraghty replaced Myler and Brent Barritt but the pattern of play did not alter and McFadden's penalty made it 42-17.
England's frustration increased in the closing stages when Joe Ward was sin-binned in the 74th minute and fellow replacement John Muldoon crossed for a try which McFadden converted. Lancaster's men had the last word in the final minute when Varndell crossed for his third try of the tournament - but it did not take the shine off a satisfying night for Irish rugby.
Saxons coach Stuart Lancaster congratulated Ireland A on a "deserved" success after admitting his side were simply outclassed.
"Our core skills were not good enough and if they're not you lose the physical battle and lose the game of rugby," he said on Sky Sports. "As the first half wore on I could see we were beginning to lose the physical battle. I made some subs but it was too little too late and they deserved to win.
"I thought they won all the collisions and what we've got to learn is to make sure you perform at this level because you don't get many chances. I think the England lads have worked hard for last three weeks. The desire was there today but unfortunately the execution wasn't."
Ireland coach Declan Kidney believes his second stringers have proved there is plenty of depth to push the senior players.
"We as coaches came over here to see what was coming through and I'm delighted how the five matches worked out," Kidney said. "We told the players it was their day. In close games it's about staying with it. It's extremely warm here and if you got a bit of supremacy on the board it's going to be hard to come back. Tonight it was our night.
"We have good talent but have to work hard. Our game was based on good work ethic and our guys are beginning to feed off that now."
England Saxons: Abendanon, Cato, Waldouck, Barritt, Varndell, Myler, Young, Flatman, Webber, Cole, Hooper, Kennedy, Dowson, Woods, Narraway.
Replacements: Ward, Mercey, Schofield, Guest, Simpson, Cipriani, Geraghty.
Ireland A: Jones, Hurley, McFadden, Matthews, J. Murphy, Sexton, Boss, Healy, Cronin, Buckley, Ryan, Toner, Best, Ronan, Henry.
Replacements: Fogarty, Young, Hogan, Muldoon, Keogh, O'Connor, Downey.
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