Ireland 4 England Knights 56
England Knights proved too strong for the hosts on their entry into the Alitalia European Cup, completing their second success over the Wolfhounds in 2012 after a 62-4 triumph at St Helens in June.
Mark Aston’s Irishmen came into the game full of confidence after their win in game one over Scotland but the greater pace and experience of the England aspirants proved to be decisive.
Not that it looked to be the case for a closely fought opening half hour with little between the combatants, the home side earning plaudits for their stoic defensive effort.
It took just three minute for the Knights to open the scoring when an attack down the left on the last saw Jodie Broughton cross for an unconverted try.
Knights looked to have scored again but the pass was ruled forward and, from the let off, the Wolfhounds gained significant possession and forced an error from Chris Riley which Liam Finn pounced on.
A couple of drives later Ireland found space on the left hand side and a long pass from skipper Finn put Josh Toole in at the corner for his first international try, to level.
The sides battled it out in a midfield stalemate until the 23rd minute when Michael Lawrence, in the second row, offloaded to Kieron Dixon who touched down to score his debut international try.
In the next concerted set, St Helens-bound Jordan Turner broke through to cross, Luke Gale converting to make it 14-4.
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, Gale landing his second conversion.
With half time imminent Turner made a break through the middle and fed his skipper Danny Houghton who touched down to make it 26-4 at the break.
Kieron Purtill’s side kept the pressure on after the break and it paid off 13 minutes into the half when a chip through from Gale found Broughton who beat Tim Bergin to the ball, Gale’s conversion making it 32-4.
Ireland again rallied but a Sean Hesketh knock on gave the Knights back possession and they capitalised through man of the match Gale who also added the extras, his final points tally being 20.
Soon after George Burgess burst through the defensive line and put the impressive Lawrence over for a deserved score.
Ireland were forced to defend back to back sets and their defensive line was again breached by another powerful George Burgess burst which brought up the half century.
With two minutes remaining the troublesome Broughton broke through and fed Tom Burgess who fended off two defenders for his side’s tenth and final try.
Despite the defeat, there were a number of positives for Mark Aston to take from the game, not least strong performances from Joshua Toole, Luke Ambler and Belfast boy Matty Hadden.
“We are very disappointed because we know that’s not our best performance,” Aston commented. “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 have to. In 2013 we won’t be playing just any sides we’ll be facing Australia, the full England outfit and Fiji so we need to be at our best.”
While Ireland look to next year, England Knights go to Edinburgh next week to take on Scotland knowing a win will make them 2012 Alitalia European Cup Champions.
Greg McNally, Tom Bergin, Stuart Littler, Joshua Toole, John O’Donnell, James Mendeika, Liam Finn, Luke Ambler, Carl Sice, Sean Hesketh, Callum Casey, Elliott Cosgrove, Tyrone McCarthy
Substitutes: Colton Roche, Wayne Kerr, Matty Hadden, Sam Wellens
Try: Toole (13)
Chris Riley, Kieran Dixon, Jordan Turner, Rhys Evans, Jodie Broughton, Dan Sarginson, Luke Gale, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, George Burgess, Jack Hughes, Michael Lawrence, Mike Cooper
Substitutes: Tom Burgess, Shaun Lunt, Chris Clarkson, Ben Jones-Bishop
Tries: Broughton (3, 53), Dixon (23), Turner (25), T. Burgess (31, 78), Houghton (38), Gale (59), Lawrence (64), G. Burgess (72)
Goals: Gale 8
Men of the match: IRELAND – Luke Ambler KNIGHTS – Luke Gale
Referee: Ben Thaler (England)