THREE Limerick-based players played starring roles as the Ireland U-20s scored a famous first ever win over champions New Zealand in the Junior World Cup in Manchester on Saturday.
Young Munster prop Ben Betts tuned in a powerful display in the Irish front row as Nigel Carolan’s side took a giant step towards making the semi-finals of the competition with a stunning 33-24 victory over the five-time winners.
Ballyhahill-based Betts, who previously played with Estuary RFC, was a key member of a magnificent Irish forward pack which dominated the holders at scrum time and at the breakdown.
Garryowen out-half Bill Johnston made a very valuable contribution in the crucial play-making role before being forced off in the second half with an unfortunate shoulder injury.
Shannon back-row forward Kelvin Brown, a powerful ball carrier, produced an eye-catching display when introduced from the bench in the final quarter.
This is the first time that an Ireland U-20 side has beaten New Zealand in the Junior World Championship and just the seventh time in 9 tournaments that the Baby Blacks have suffered defeat.
Munster Academy manager Peter Malone is forwards coach with the Irish U-20s.
Following their splendid come-from-behind victory over Wales on the opening day, Ireland will guarantee their place in the semi-finals for just the second time with a win over Gerogia in their final pool fixture on Wednesday next at 5.30pm. (Live on TG4)
Ireland led New Zealand 20-14 at half-time, with their two tries coming from well-executed line-out mauls through Greg Jones and Adam McBurney.
Max Deeegan got the clinching Irish try in the dying moments as New Zealand came storming back but Ireland were not to be denied this time.