Ireland U20 completed their 2021 Six Nations campaign on Tuesday afternoon with a narrow loss to France at Cardiff Arms Park.
Despite tries from Jamie Osborne and Alex Kendellen, both converted by Nathan Doak alongside two first half penalties, Ireland trailed France 20 – 24 at the end of a frenetic first half. A 65th minute try from France’s Louis Bielle-Biarrey and a penalty from Nolann Le Garrec gave France some breathing space and, despite a late try from Kendellen, Ireland came up just short.
Ireland (20) 28
TRY: Jamie Osborne, Alex Kendellen (2)
CON: Nathan Doak (2)
PEN: Nathan Doak (3)
France (24) 34
TRY: Thibault Debaes, Pierre Bochaton, Paul Mallez
CON: Nolann Le Garrec (4)
PEN: Nolann Le Garrec (2)
Ireland U20 started the game with, I believe, their 4th out half option of the tournament. I had expected Doak to take the reigns at 10 earlier in the series, given he was familiar with the position at Schools, with Ulster U18’s and with Ulster A, and I like the light touch that Conor McKee has at scrumhalf as he moves the game on with minimum fuss, a much undervalued attribute.
Unfortunately they were up against it in this game as the French paring of with Thibault Debaes at 10 and Le Garrec at 9 were formidable opponents, especially behind a big old rangy French pack.
Le Garrec was first to get on the scoreboard, following a penalty conceded by Jude Postlethwaite, all the more impressive considering that France were a man down due to a 2nd minute yellow card for Killian Tixeront for a no arms tackle.
Ireland hit back almost immediately with Osborne crashing through some poor tackling close to the posts to open Ireland’s account. Doak added the extras and Ireland led 7 – 3 after 11 minutes.
The Irish enjoyed a good spell but France were next to score after a wayward pass from McKee sent Bielle-Biarrey on his way only for Doak to bring him down with a tap tackle. However, a quick recycle and Debaes sliced through the stretched Irish defence with consummate ease. Le Garrec converted and 5 minutes later Pierre Bochaton finished off a line out move to push the score to 7 – 17, after a second conversion from Le Garrec.
Ireland pulled it back to 17 – 17 on the half hour mark as Doak knocked over a penalty before stepping up to land a conversion after Kendellen burrowed over at the second attempt following a period of pressure on the French line.
However, a misguided block by Doak let the French kick their way into Ireland’s 22 and prop Paul Mallez got over for the try after a pretty hard old time from the referee throughout the game. Le Garrec added the extras but Doak pulled 3 points back with a penalty to take the score to 20 – 24 in France’s favour at the break.
Doak pulled it back to a one point game with his third penalty on the 48th minute mark but from then on the French half-back’s took control.
Debaes tortured the Irish back three with some wonderful kicks before the quick thinking Le Garrec chipped one over to Bielle-Biarrey with Ireland still trying to get organised. The converted try pushed France eight points clear with 15 minutes go but that was extended to 11 with 10 minutes remaining as Le Garrec added his second penalty.
Ireland worked hard, and they had to, as they continued to work everything through the pack. As the clock went into the final minutes it was that man Kendellen that eventually got over for his 6th try of the series but it was too late to impact the final result, Doak rushing the conversion attempt to try and get another play in. Final score Ireland 28 France 34.
IRELAND: Jamie Osborne, Ben Moxham, Jude Postlethwaite, Cathal Forde, Shane Jennings, Nathan Doak, Conor McKee, Temi Lasisi, Ronan Loughnane, Sam Illo, Mark Morrissey, Harry Sheridan, Alex Soroka, Oisin McCormack, Alex Kendellen (C). Replacements: Eoin de Buitléar, George Saunderson, Liam Bishop, Jack Kelleher, Reuben Crothers, Will Reilly, Ben Carson, Chris Cosgrave, Fearghail O’Donoghue, Donnacha Byrne, Chay Mullins.
FRANCE: Alexandre Tchaptchet, Louis Bielle Biarrey, Emilien Gailleton, Leo Barre, Nelson Epee, Thibault Debaes, Nolann Le Garrec (C), Teo Bordenave, Victor Montgaillard, Paul Mallez , Thomas Ployet, Adrien Warion, Pierre Bochaton, Matthias Haddad Victor,, Kylian Tixeront. Replacements: Daniel Bibi Biziwu, Benjamin Boudou, Henzo Kiteau, Romain Macurdy, Matteo Le Corvec, Maxime Baudonne, Theo Ntamack, Theo Idjellidaine , Edgar Retiere, Alfred Parisien, Matteo Garcia.
Yet again, plenty of effort from the Irish lads but vim and vigour will only get you so far against the big lads. France controlled the game when it mattered and the under utilised Irish backs ended up as decoration for a hard working pack.
We’ve updated the stats for the Ulster players involved in the 2021 Six Nations. I’ve changed Squads category to Games Played to show the actual number of appearances they made on the pitch.
We’re working on a Who did What for the Six Nations so you’ll get a breakdown of the whole squad tomorrow morning.
However, to round this game off I thought that Postlethwaite and George Saunderson were the stand out Ulster players, both working hard to get involved in most aspects of play. We’ll also give a big shout out for Harry Sheridan who had a strong series in an unfamiliar position. I look forward to seeing how his stats stack up against the rest of the squad tomorrow.
England wrapped up the Grand Slam in the first game of the final round leaving the rest of the sides scrapping it out for the title of best of the rest.
They must have been on the soda pop early after England’s win, or maybe they were recovering from the 12th, as the Six Nations site has England on 28 points from their five games. I’ve checked through it and the final table should look like this.