A depleted Ireland U20’s were overpowered by a strong French side at Dubarry Park on Friday night with the visitors scoring six tries. Ireland managed one try in reply, through Ulster’s Niall Annett and Patrick Jackson added two penalties and a conversion.
Ireland (6) 13
TRY: Niall Annett
CON: Paddy Jackson
PEN: Paddy Jackson (2)
France (21) 38
TRY: Yann Lesgourgues, Geoffrey Palis,
Pierre Bérard, Marvin O’Connor,
Romain Colliat, Jules Plisson
CON: Jean-Marc Doussain (4)
Missing Gilroy, Marshall, Conway, Moore, Kearney and McKeon through Provincial call ups and injuries this was always going to be a tough game for the Irish and with the French side looking physically mature beyond their years it was no surprise that the visitors dominated the physical battle up front.
Ireland did go into an early lead through a Jackson penalty with only three minutes on the clock but the French replied with tries from Yann Lesgourgues, Geoffrey Palis and Pierre Bérard, all converted by Jean-Marc Doussain, before Jackson troubled the score board again with another penalty on the stroke of half time taking the score to 6 – 21.
France scored again through the impressive Marvin O’Connor with Doussain again adding the extras and when Romain Colliat crossed on the 51st minute for another try, to take the score to 6 – 33 the French emptied the bench with the game already in the bag.
However a French yellow card helped Ireland’s cause and captain Annett rallied his troops and touched down after the Irish pack mauled over the line from a line out. Jackson added the extras taking the score to 13 – 33 but shortly after the game degenerated into a bit of a farce with the officials seeming somewhat overwhelmed when Ireland ran out of fit props!
After an extended break the game continued with unopposed scrums and Ireland playing with14 men but the fixture had lost all momentum. France roused themselves for another score minutes from the end with Jules Plisson crossing for an unconverted try taking the final score to 13 – 38.
Of the Ulster contingent Dungannon’s Jackson and Harlequins’ Annett were the stand out players for Ireland, both looking composed in difficult circumstances. Queen’s Iain Henderson again gained valuable game time coming on after 54 minutes and looked his usual industrious self. Ballymena’s Conor Carey, along with the rest Irish scrum, had a challenging day in the front row going off injured at half time and club mate Blane McIlroy fought his corner well at scrum half despite being under pressure for most of the game. Queen’s James McKinney came on at the end with minutes remaining.
Speaking afterwards, Mike Ruddock said:
We knew it was going to be tough, especially in the scrum. The French had a heavy unit there, a lot of big powerful boys.
Obviously being a couple of guys down after last week, we really missed one or two of the guys that were part of the preparation over the longer term.
But the guys dug in and showed a lot of spirit in the second half. We tried to play some football, but the quality of possession we were getting at times wasn’t exactly what we wanted.
Our lineout was fantastic – we stole some of theirs – and our kick-off structures worked great. We wanted to kick midfield and wider out to stop the big French pack rumbling on. We didn’t just want to kick to their pack and let them drive on.
We fell off a couple of tackles in the first half which was disappointing, because we highlighted the collisions as being very important.
We dug in and kept trying hard, and obviously it would be great to get some of those guys from the Magners (League) back for the next game.Mike Ruddock, Ireland U20 Coach.
IRELAND U20: Michael Sherlock (Leinster); Tiernan O’Halloran (Connacht), Alex Kelly (Leinster), Nathaniel McDonald (Exile), Andrew Boyle (Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Blane McIlroy (Ulster); James Tracy (Leinster), Niall Annett (Ulster) (capt), Conor Carey (Ulster), David O’Mahony (Munster), Daniel Qualter (Connacht), David Heffernan (Connacht), Aaron Conneely (Connacht), Jordi Murphy (Leinster). Replacements: Finlay Bealham (Exile), Iain Henderson (Ulster), JJ Hanrahan (Munster), Shane Buckley (Munster), Peter du Toit (Leinster), Shane Buckley (Munster), James McKinney (Ulster), David Doyle (Leinster).
FRANCE U20: Geoffrey Palis (Albi); Pierre Bérard (Montpellier), Jean-Pascal Barraque (Biarritz Olympique), Jules Plisson (Stade Francais), Marvin O’Connor (Grenoble); Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse) (capt), Yann Lesgourgues (Biarritz Olympique); Sebastien Taofifenua (Perpignan), Romain Colliat (Castres Olympique), Walter Desmaison (Bayonne), William Demotte (Clermont Auvergne), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Brive), Kevin Gimeno (Montpellier), Julien Come (Racing Metro 92), Gillian Galan (Toulouse). Replacements: Clement Bourgeois, Victor Delmas (Colomiers), Mathias Marie (Biarritz Olympique), Jean Buttin (Clermont Auvergne), Pierre Julien (Agen), Lauren Magnaval (Toulon), Thibaut Visensang (Bayonne).