- England Counties come close to beating Ireland in Cork
- A second half come back put first win on Irish soil within reach
Ireland Club XV 30 England Counties 20
England Counties staged a spirited second half come-back against an Irish Club XV but fell just short of their first win in Ireland, eventually going down 30-20 in Cork.
Tries from Matt Heeks and Will Hurrell at brought England to within three points after the visitors paid for their mistakes with a 20-8 half time deficit.
Storming runs from Sam Shires and elusive running by full back Peter Hodgkinson and Jack Adams kept momentum for England but Ireland took their chances, playing a quick offloading game in attack.
The home side were the first to cross the whitewash when they ran the length of the pitch following an intercept. Seven minutes later England put points on the board when they earned a penalty within range following a strong carry from Shires and chip through from Heeks.
Roles soon reversed however and it was Ireland who twice capitalised on England’s ill-discipline to extend their lead to 13-3.
Against the run of play, quick feet by Adams set England on the offensive. The centre gained ground before popped the ball back inside to Shires and interlinking play from Adams and Matt Hall released Neville Edwards to burst down the wing.
England’s following passage of play had urgency and a confidence which it had been lacking but it was Ireland who took the final points of the half, driving over the line despite the best efforts of the wall of white.
A yellow card for scrum half Heeks reduced England down to 14 men moments into the second half and England soon found themselves gifting Ireland another three points.
After serving his time Heeks put England back in the game. The driving pack earned England three penalties in quick succession before a scrum on the five metre line set the ball to go wide to Scott Barrow who forced himself through the Irish defence only to come just short. A quick pick and go by the scrum half took the ball over the line and Teague added the extras.
The momentum was now with the men in white and a second try soon followed. Adams fixed his defender before throwing a miss pass to Will Hurrell, the super sub, who crossed in the corner taking the score to 23-20.
With 20 minutes to play, Teague missed the chance to equalise when he pulled a penalty wide. England came agonisingly close minutes later when the captain’s cross field kick failed to land for Hurrell who was clear on the wing.
Tactical kicking, committed defending and fast, and at times frantic, attack by both teams provided end to end rugby for the final quarter but it was Ireland who had the last say driving over the line to take the final points of the match.
Head Coach Jan Bonney said: “It’s disappointing that our unforced errors cost us the game. We put ourselves in a good position to bring it back in the second half but credit to Ireland for the way they closed it out. There was an impressive crowd and good conditions, it just didn’t come off as we had hoped. We’ll build on this and look forward now to the match against France on the 22nd February.”
England: Teague 1P 1C, Edwards 1T, Heeks 1T, Hurrell 1T
Ireland: Stuart Morrow 1T, Craig Ronaldson 3C, 3P, Ben Reilly 1T, Ger Slattery 1T
England Counties v Ireland Club XV
15. Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing)
14. Ollie Marchon (Old Albanian)
13. Jack Adams (Cinderford)
12. Scott Barrow (Fylde)
11. Nev Edwards (Rosslyn Park)
10. Rory Teague (Blackheath)
9. Matt Heeks (Rosslyn Park)
1. Tom Fidler (Cambridge)
2. Matt Hall (Blaydon)
3. Mark George (Stourbridge)
4. Will Warden (Richmond)
5. James Inglis (Esher)
6. Sam Shires (Ealing)
7. Dave Allen (Blackheath)
8. Joe Burton (Loughborough Students)
16. David Dickinson (Tynedale) on for Mark George (79 mins)
17. Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon) on for Tom Fidler (45mins)
18. Ben West (Cinderford) on for Will Warden (42 mins)
19. Billy Johnson (Old Albanian) on for Joe Burton (45mins)
20. Lewis Barker (Coventry) on for Matt Heeks (66mins)
21. Chris Elder (Esher) on for Scott Barrow (79 mins)
22. Will Hurrell (Stourbridge) on for Ollie Marchon (55 mins)