- England Counties slip to Ulster Bank Club International defeat
- Full back Gareth Collins grabs only Counties try
Ulster Bank Club International Team 16 England Counties 8
Photo: Getty Images
England Counties hopes of winning on Irish soil for the first time were undone at Old Belvedere RFC in Dublin when they paid dearly for letting scarce scoring chances slip through their fingers in a game where defences generally held sway.
In contrast the Irishmen engineered even fewer chances than their opponents, but on the two occasions they opened up the Counties rearguard, they nailed the score.
The visitors had the better of the first half in terms of possession, but while they sought to move the ball wide as often as possible, they found the Irish defence watertight.
On the couple of occasions when cracks appeared, handling errors denied them points and it was left to scrum half Ben Spencer to notch their only score with a sixth-minute penalty
Though fly half Barry Keshan missed a couple of penalty shots, he hit the target at the third attempt after 36 minutes to leave the sides level at the break.
The crucial breakthrough came seven minutes after the restart when the Counties lost possession at the back of a scrum near the Irish 22 metre line as they were exerting serious pressure once again. This time the ball was transferred smartly through the backs to wing David Mongan, who showed plenty of pace and a strong hand off to gallop in from half-way.
Prior to that score the Counties had done well to contain the tight forward driving which is the hallmark of the home side, but when they won a position near the visitors line after 58 minutes, they moved the ball through a number of phases before lock Simon Crawford powered over.
Collins races over for only Counties try
Photo: Getty Images
The Counties got back into contention on the hour with a well worked try through the backs. Centre Peter Hodgkinson did the spadework with a break and a perfectly timed scoring pass to full back Gareth Collins, who just had enough pace to outrun the cover and score.
At that stage the Counties started to find themselves at odds with the referee’s interpretation of events and their opponents started to turn the screw via some well-organised ball retention which culminated in a last minute penalty by replacement Alan Kingsley to settle the outcome.
“I think we tried to play an awful lot of rugby, but a couple of mistakes let us down,” said Counties Manager Mike Old. “We’re very disappointed, but it’s what Ireland do to us year in and year out – they capitalise on their chances and make us pay or not taking ours.
“But I think our boys showed huge commitment and huge passion.
"I'm very disappointed because I thought we played as well as in any Counties game I've been involved in" said captain Gareth Collins. "But at this level you have to take the chances when they come your way. Tonight the Irish lads managed that, but we didn't."
England Counties v Ulster Bank Club International Teams
England Counties XV: Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions) capt; David Vincent (Barking), Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing Trailfinders), Tom Wheatcroft (Cambridge), Tom Jarvis (Stourbridge); Dan Mugford (Cambridge), Ben Spencer (Cambridge); Alex Clarke (London Scottish), Matt Hall (Blaydon), Aaron Liffchak (Barking), Steve Pape (Rosslyn Park), Josh Brown (London Scottish), James Kellard (Barking), Dave Allen (Blackheath), Sam Beaumont (Fylde).
Replacements all used: Dan Lloyd-Jones (Barking), Alex MacKenzie (Barking), James Ngan (Barking), Tom Standfield (London Scottish), Stefan Liebenberg (Old Albanians), Mike Waywell (Fylde), James Stephenson (Blackheath).
Ulster Bank Club International Team: John O'Brien (Buccaneers); John Cleary (Galwegians), Eric Moloney (Dolphin), Evan Ryan (Clontarf), David Mongan (Old Belvedere); Barry Keeshan (Dolphin), Gerry Hurley (Cork Constitution); John Ryan (UCC), Richie Sweeney (St. Mary's College), Christy Condon (Dolphin), Philip Donnellan (UCC), Simon Crawford (Clontarf), Hugh Hogan (St Mary's College), Barry O'Mahony (Clontarf), Frank Cogan (Cork Constitution) capt.
Replacements all used: Ciaran Kavanagh (Clontarf) Ger Slattery (Young Munster), Liam Og Murphy (Young Munster), Damian Hall (St. Mary's College), Matt D'Arcy (St. Mary's College), Alan Kingsley (Young Munster), Stuart Morrow (Ballynahinch).
Referee: L Hodges (Wales)