- Frankie Neale runs in first-half hat-trick
- Scrum half Luke Baldwin also scores in England Counties win
England Counties 29-25 AIB Ireland Club XV
Photo: Getty Images
Frankie Neale ran in a first-half hat-trick for England Counties and then survived a 'green tidal wave', admitting: "I'd have been happy with one as long as we won."
Neale's triple whammy and a 50-metre break from scrum half Luke Baldwin put the Counties 26-3 up at halftime before Ireland stormed back with four scores of their own at Stourbridge's Stourton Park.
But thanks to Sam Ulph's kicking and sterling late defence the side drawn from 14 clubs and three leagues held out.
And London Scottish fullback Neale said: "We came out in the first half and imposed ourselves. We attacked the line, defended as a team and executed our moves and I was lucky to get three tries myself. In the second half we let them back in the game and we have to improve in defence before we play France Amateurs (March 19).
"Wearing the red rose on your chest is a great honour. It's great to get three tries but I'd have been happy with one as long as we got the result."
Captain Tom Bason, also from Blackheath, admitted: "We were scoring quite freely in that first half but in the second half they got the momentum and that's a difficult thing to wrestle back. But the lads pulled through, especially at the end against green tidal wave, and that is what we are proud of.
"Our first half performance was up to scratch and our second half wasn't so we need to put two 40s together against the French."
Team Manager Danny Hodgson saluted his side, saying: "We were a lot better with the ball than we were without the ball and we have to work on that but our defence at the end held good and I was extremely pleased with our performance.
"This was the first time we have ever beaten Ireland. I am delighted with the way the whole squad has worked together this week and the approach from the whole squad."
England Counties XV: Frankie Neale (London Scottish); Sam Ulph (Esher), Jack Harrison (Tynedale), Seb Jewell (Esher), David Howells (London Scottish); James Brown (London Scottish), Luke Baldwin (Blackheath); John Williams (Tynedale), Joe Graham (Tynedale), Sam Heard (Redruth), Matt Owen (Macclesfield), Tom Bason (Blackheath, capt), Dan Legge (Cambridge), Darren Fox (Cambridge), Tom Powell (Cambridge). Replacements: Matt Riley (Sedgley Park, for Jewell 58), Matt Hall (Blaydon, for Graham 66), Tom Warren (Esher, for Heard 66), Steve Parsons (Harrogate, for Howells 66), Not used: Ben Harris (Huddersfield), Alex Nash (Rugby Lions), Tom Richardson (Stourbridge).
Scorers: Tries: Neale (3), Baldwin; Pen: Ulph; Cons: Ulph (3)
AIB Ireland Club XV: Daragh O'Shea (Clontarf RFC); John Cleary (Galwegians RFC), Eric Moloney (Dolphin RFC), Evan Ryan (Cork Constitution RC), Stephen Kelly (Shannon RFC); Barry Keeshan (Dolphin RFC), Sam Cronin (Dolphin RFC, capt), Martin Gately (Cork Constitution FC), Michael Essex (Shannon RFC), Simon Shawe (Ballymena RFC), Paul Huntly (Blackrock College RFC), Fergal Walsh (Shannon RFC), Richard Leyden (Old Belvedere RFC), Barry O'Mahony (Dolphin RFC), Frank Cogan (Cork Constitution FC). Replacements: Hugh Hogan (St. Mary's College RFC, for Cogan 61), Simon Crawford (Clontarf RFC, for Huntly 65), Aaron Dundon (Clontarf RFC, for O'Mahony 78). Not used: Christy Condon (Dolphin RFC), Cathal Sheridan (UL Bohemians RFC), Darragh Fitzpatrick (Blackrock College RFC), Sean Scanlon (University College Cork RFC).
Scorers: Tries: Kelly (2), Essex, Cleary; Pen: Keeshan; Con: Keeshan.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)