A rampaging England Knights dashed Ireland’s hopes of a first ever Alitalia European Cup when the sides met at Deramore Park on Saturday evening with a 56-4 victory which means Ireland now only have a mathematical chance at winning the cup.
The two sides had met recently when the Knights ran out 62-4 winners at Langtree Park in St Helens last June. However, it looked as if it would be a lot closer in the opening thirty minutes with neither side willing to give an inch and only a few breaks being made through either defensive set up.
It took just three minute for the Knights to open the scoring when an attacked down the left on the last saw Jodie Broughton cross over to make the score 4-0. England looked to have scored a second but the pass was forward. From this the Wolfhounds drove down the field and forced an error from Chris Riley which Liam Finn pounced on. A couple of drives later the hosts found space on the left hand side when a long pass from the Ireland captain put Josh Toole in at the corner for his first international try.
For ten minutes the sides battled it out without much joy until the 23rd minutes when Michael Lawrence offloaded to Kieron Dixon who touched down to score. Then only a couple of minutes later Jordan Turner broke through to make it 12-4 with 27 minutes gone. Luke Gale converted to make it 14-4 to the Knights.
Again Ireland looked to have settled back into the game but an error gave the Knights possession in prime field position and Tom Burgess smashed his way over the line to make it 20-4 following Gale’s conversion. With the half time whistle imminent Jordan Turner made a break through the middle and fed Danny Houghton who touched down to make it 26-4 at the break.
The second half started with both teams taking a cautious approach as Ireland looked to close the 22 point gap between the sides. Kieron Purtill’s side kept the pressure on the hosts and it paid off thirteen minutes into the half when a chip through from Gale found Broughton who beat Tim Bergin to the ball to make it 32-4 after Gale’s conversion.
Ireland then came close to making a break but a Sean Hesketh knock on gave the Knights back possession and they drove down field and Gale found a gap to bring the score to Ireland 4-38 as he also added the conversion. Then just moments later George Burgess burst through the defensive line and put Michael Lawrence over to make it 4-44 to the Knights with sixteen minutes to go.
Ireland again were forced to defend back to back sets and their defensive line was again breached by George Burgess who made it 50-4 to the Knights. With just two minutes on the clock Broughton broke through and fed Tom Burgess who fended off two defenders to make it Ireland 4-56 Knights.
While the result will have been hard to take for Ireland there were still a number of positives to take out of the game with strong performances from Joshua Toole, Luke Ambler and Belfast boy Matty Hadden. Speaking after the game Ireland head coach Mark Aston voiced his disappointed with the result and the performance; “We are very disappointed because we know that’s not our best performance. We were looking to build on a good win against Scotland last week but the Knights are a more powerful side.
“This fixture is important for us as we are looking to improve for the world cup because we are going out to win. In 2013 we won’t be playing just any sides we’ll be playing Australia, England and Fiji so we need to be at our best.”
Ireland will now look to 2013 when they hope to continue their development under Aston while the England Knights go to Edinburgh next week to take on Scotland knowing a win will make them 2012 Alitalia European Cup Champions.
Ireland Wolfhounds 4 lost to
Finn 0 from 1
Team: G McNally, T Bergin, S Littler, J Toole, J O’Donnell, J Mendeika, L Finn, L Ambler, C Sice, S Hesketh, C Casey, E Cosgrove, T McCarthy Interchange: C Roche, W Kerr, M Hadden, S Wellens
England Knights 56
Tries: Broughton 2, Lawrence 2, T. Burgess 2, Turner, Houghton, Gale, G. Burgess
Goals: Gale 8 from 10
Team: C Riley, K Dixon, J Turner, R Evans, J Broughton, D Sarginson, L Gale, S Taylor, D Houghton, G Burgess, J Hughes, M Lawrence, M Cooper Interchange: T Burgess, S Lunt, C Clarkson, B Jones-Bishop