Cold, wet and miserable conditions prevailed for the Test between the Australian Schools Team and Ireland Under 18s at the home of Ulster Rugby, Ravenhill, Belfast.
Australian captain, Jack McCalman won the toss and as expected ran with the strong wind in the first half. The early exchanges were very physical as both sets of forwards looked to assert authority over the other.
Australia gained the early advantage when awarded a penalty for an Irish infringement at the breakdown. Fly half, Andrew Deegan kicked the goal and Australia held the early lead.
Ireland was quick to respond with points when they too were awarded a penalty and their penalty attempt also successful. For the remainder of the first half, honors were evenly shared in terms of field position.
Both teams had chances to score but accuracy in the tough conditions was costing both teams. Jack McCalman and Lolo Faka’osilea won crucial turnover ball at times but the Australian scrum began to be punished by the French referee with a series of infringements, and Ireland in turn placed Australia under serious pressure.
In the 30th minute, an Irish try was scored in the corner after control and patience was demonstrated by the forwards. In the final seconds of the first half, Australia had a great opportunity to add points after some impressive patterns of play.
Unfortunately, an Australian knock on only centimeters from the line halted the opportunity to even up the game at the break and at half time it was the Ireland Under 18s with an 8 – 3 lead over Australian Schools.
At the break, confidence was high in the Australian dressing room even though the team would be running into the strong gale in the second half. The second half could not have started better with an Irish mistake from the restart.
The Australian intensity had lifted and they began to play controlled, multiphase rugby to place the Irish under pressure.
In the 36th minute, Australian scrum half, James Tuttle spotted an opening down the short side, took his chance and touched down for Australia’s first try after gliding through two Irish defenders.
Unfortunately the conversion was unsuccessful but Australia’s confidence was building as the scores were now locked up at 8-8. Both teams were handling the tough conditions well with Ireland kicking accurately and Australia returning the ball with great willingness.
Australia were also getting on top at scrum time after troubles with interpretation in the first half. The penalty count was starting to even up as Ireland tried everything at the breakdown to unsettle the Australian momentum but were now on the wrong side of the French referee.
An Irish yellow card added to their frustration as the Australian runners hammered away at the Irish defense and winning the battle of the breakdown. Andrew Deegan added a further penalty goal in the 50th minute as Australia regained the lead 11-8.
From the restart Ireland lifted and played their best Rugby of the second half, however the Australian defense was up for the fight and eventually an Irish error was forced and Australia returned fire.
Ball control was crucial running into the wind and the Australian players demonstrated great discipline for the remainder of the second half. Substitutions were made by both teams as fatigue in the tough conditions was evident.
The Australian bench lifted the team as each player who came on made a real impression to ensure a positive final outcome. The Irish gave away another penalty in the 59th minute well within kicking range.
Andrew Deegan slotted the extras and Australia increased their lead to 14-8. For the remainder of the match, Australia dominated possession and held on for a well – deserved, memorable victory.
Australian Schools, 14 (try: James Tuttle
Penalty Goals: Andrew Deegan x 3) defeated Ireland Under 18s, 8 (try and 1 penalty goal).