Ireland Women came up short against a powerful French side in Perpignan on Saturday night, with the French recording an 18 – 6 win.
France Women (15) 18
TRY: Gaelle Mignot, Caroline Boujard.
CON: Audrey Abadie.
PEN: Audrey Abadie, Laura Delas.
Ireland Women (6) 6
PEN: Niamh Briggs (2)
France stormed out of the blocks with a big first five minutes. A break by Safi N’Diaye led to a early penalty and Audrey Adabie duly converted to give France a 3 – 0 lead. Momentum swung from side to side throughout this match and, in their turn, Ireland worked their way into the French red zone only for a series of misfiring line outs to deny them more than the Niamh Briggs penalty which evened the score.
Whipped on by a big, vocal, crowd France got back in the driving seat, with a series of mauls close to the Ireland line ending with a try for Gaelle Mignot, the French captain crossing at the second attempt after Paula Fitzpatrick pulled down the first.
The conversion was missed but it got worse for Ireland shortly after when Briggs, on a crash ball, was stripped of possession just over the halfway line. Two passes later the ball was in the hands of flying winger Caroline Boujard who out stripped the Irish defence to run home from 50 yards. This time the conversion was good and France opened up a formidable 15 – 3 lead in what was always going to be a tight game.
Ireland continued to rebound and were rewarded with their second Briggs penalty on the 33rd minute mark, to take the score to 15 – 6, but, with their back line struggling to make headway against the disciplined French defence, their largely forward based efforts were starting to take their toll and the half came to an end without further score.
With the next score likely to decide the match the third quarter was a tense, scrappy, stop/start affair with neither side wanting to blink first. As the game approached the hour mark Ireland were camped in the French half but they were unable to make the required breakthrough.
Ireland looked to their bench to switch things up, including a change at half backs, but their first duty was to chase Abadie through to the line before she was smashed head on and head high by Briggs. The resulting penalty gave France an 18 – 6 lead with ten minutes remaining.
Ireland continued to attack to the end but France held on, reasonably comfortably, to record their second win of the series.
Ireland: Niamh Briggs, Elise O’Byrne-White, Aine Donnelly, Sene Naoupu, Mairead Coyne, Nikki Caughey, Larissa Muldoon, Ailis Egan, Cliodhna Moloney, Ruth O’Reilly, Sophie Spence, Marie-Louise Reilly, Paula Fitzpatrick, Claire Molloy, Heather O’Brien. Replacements: Zoe Grattage, Lindsay Peat, Fiona Reidy, Ciara Cooney, Ciara Griffin, Mary Healy, Nora Stapleton, Jackie Shiels.
I’d predicted that this game against France came a game or two too early for the “new look” Ireland and that’s pretty much how it worked out. Ireland had their chances but with the big French pack more than matching their Irish counterparts the Irish back line struggled to make much headway off untidy ball.
Ulster’s Nikki Caughey was excellent in defence, a big hit on the French No. 8 early doors setting the scene, but she needs to take some of the initiative off Briggs in attack as the French had Briggs and Naoupu’s number from the start.
However, it was again a “better than expected” performance from Ireland and I fancy their chances against England next time out!