A spirited Ireland performance was not enough as France powered to victory with a dynamic second half performance.
Hugh O’Sullivan scored on the stroke of half time to give Ireland a deserved 17-5 lead but three second half French tries wiped the lead out. A late Harry Byrne try, to bring the scores to within two points, unfortunately was a consolation.
The tournament hosts took an early lead through a Maxime Marty try after a penalty was taken quickly, the winger diving in at the corner.
UCD’s Harry Byrne slotted a penalty on his second attempt to narrow the deficit to two points with 17 minutes played.
Ireland struggled to get inside the France 22 in the opening quarter of the game but excellent forward play saw Joe Dunleavy cross for Ireland’s first try. A lineout just outside the French 22 was gathered and rumbled 15 metres before the ball was transferred to the backs. Strong carries from Matthew Dalton, Caelan Doris and Matthew Agnew saw Noel McNamara’s side inch closer with Dunleavy supplying the final push. Byrne added the extras to take the score to 5 – 10 in Ireland’s favour.
A try saving tackle from Michael Silvester prevented Marty from a second try while Clement Laporte broke the defensive line but could not find Marty in a one on one with the Irish fullback. At the other end Tom Roche thought he had crossed for Ireland’s second try but after a referral to the TMO, the try was disallowed due to a high tackle from Jack Aungier who was sent to the bin.
Ireland capped off a fine half with another score which was made in the forwards but this time finished by O’Sullivan. Ireland’s forwards gave them a great platform in the first half which saw them take a 17-5 lead at the break after Byrne convert3d with the last kick of the half.
France responded immediately after the restart through Arthur Coville. Romain N’tamack found Jordan Joseph who offloaded to scrum half Coville for the try, converted by N’tamack who stepped up minutes later to covert his own try after gathering his own kick over the goal line. the conversion gave France a 19 – 17 lead.
France’s had their tails up and, after a dominant scrum on half way, N’tamack found Laporte who made the incisive break. Marty converted France’s good work with his second try of the game with a score in the corner. N’tamack again converted to give France a bit of space with the score now 26 – 17 in their favour.
Ireland struggled to stem the flow of the French attack with the hosts showing the flair that we associated with Les Bleus sides of the noughties. Ireland found it difficult to live with the power of, replacement back row forward, Joseph as he notched up three clean breaks in a powerful second half performance.
Ireland kept fighting and Byrne narrowed the gap to two points with a try and conversion giving this Irish side hope. Tommy O’Brien saved a certain try scoring opportunity while Jonny Stewart broke down the left to give Ireland a glimmer of hope.
It was not to be as Ireland lost the resulting lineout allowing France to close out a narrow but hard fought victory.
Speaking to Matthew Dalton after the match he commented on Ireland’s tactic of rolling on the deck once contact was made:
The body-ball helped us deny France any chance of a turnover. It was something that we had been working on over the last few months as we play best with quick ruck ball and that was evident in the first half.
At half time we said that they would come out of the blocks but we could not live with them in the first ten minutes. We eventually got ourselves into the half and we pulled it close.
We had a game plan to take to the French and it worked in the first half. We’ll move onto the match against South Africa with confidence.