Ireland Under-20s well beaten by France in Verona

Richie Murphy’s side show guts and resilience but are very much second best against a powerful and free flowing French team

Ireland 21 France 42

France scored five tries, had three more disallowed and for large tranches of the match were utterly dominant, producing some gorgeous attacking rugby in a thoroughly deserved victory in the opening game of the summer series in Verona.

To their credit Ireland showed character and resilience and might have snatched a bonus point with a fourth try late on but the absence of 11 starters from their Grand Slam team was always going to be a massive handicap.

Instead, Ireland head coach Richie Murphy will reflect on some brilliant individual performances not least the outstanding Aitzol King, ably supported by captain Reuben Crothers, Lorcan McLoughlin, Daniel Hawkshaw, while Dylan O’Grady had one or two excellent moments. Several of the bench, especially George Coomber, can also be pleased with their impact.

Ireland’s next game in the tournament is against South Africa who beat England 30-22 in their opening match, scoring five tries in the process.

Early Irish indiscipline and cheap turnovers provided France with territory and possession and while they escaped some hairy moments initially, it was never going to last. French fullback Max Auriac kicked a penalty but when Ireland got their spacing wrong in defence on 16 minutes France capitalised, secondrow Leo Labarthe galloping over unopposed under the posts.

Auriac converted as he would do again three minutes later following a try from outstanding centre and captain Emilien Gailleton. At 17-0 it looked ominous. There was so much to admire in the fluency, passing and running lines from the French backs but Ireland contributed to their discomfort by giving away possession carelessly.

The game turned briefly on a contentious incident. For the second time in the match an Irish player, this time Daniel Hawkshaw, was the victim of a tip tackle, lifted and flipped by Samuel M’Foudi, the Irish player landing on his head.

South African referee Adriaan Jacobs said: “It’s not a malicious or dangerous action,” which is a remarkable assessment in determining that a deliberately inverted player landing on his head/neck is not dangerous. Suffice to say that M’Foudi was lucky that the card colour was yellow. Hawkshaw left for a HIA — he returned — to be replaced by George Coomber.

The imperious Gailleton was denied a second try, correctly called back for a forward pass before Ireland, to their credit mustered a response, initially making inroads through a lineout maul and then having hammered away around the fringes, Ethan Coughlan’s intelligent pass was finished sharply by Aitzol King.

Butler added the conversion, but Murphy’s side still had to survive another fraught moment near their own line before escaping to the dressing room trailing 17-7. Gailleton was denied a try for the second time in the match, soon after the restart, this time for a knock-on in the build-up. It came after Ireland’s best passage of play was thwarted in conceding a penalty deep inside the French 22.

It was a brief respite, Auriac kicked a penalty before Depoortere ghosted through the Irish midfield to score a lovely try. Remarkably the French had a third try disallowed for an incorrectly taken quick lineout and pretty much against the run of play it was Ireland who scored next.

King’s break brought them to the threshold of the French 22 and after their opponent’s transgressed several time referee Jacobs lost patience and awarded a penalty try, while brandishing a second yellow card, this time for Jules Coulon.

France finally got the bonus point try on 70 minutes through replacement hooker Vincent Montgaillard, who powered over at the back of a lineout maul. This young Irish side has plenty of character and their response was to cross for a third try, Fionn Gibbons forcing his way over from close range following another superb break from King.

The almost snatched a losing bonus point following another brilliant run from King but it was France with a 90-metre counterattack who had the final say, Montgaillard grabbing a second.

Scoring sequence: 9 mins: Auriac penalty, 0-3; 16: Labarthe try, Auriac conversion, 0-10; 18: Gailleton try, Auriac conversion, 0-17; 32: King try, Butler conversion, 7-17. Half-time: 7-17. 45: Auriac penalty, 7-20; 48: Depoortere try, Auriac conversion, 7-27; 56: Auriac penalty, 7-30; 65: Penalty try (Ireland); 14-30; 70: Montgaillard try, Auriac conversion, 14-37; 72: Gibbons try, Prendergast conversion, 21-37; 79: Mongaillard try, 21-42.

Ireland: D O’Grady (UCD); A King (Clontarf), F Gibbons (UCD), D Hawkshaw (Clontarf), S McCarthy (Young Munster); T Butler (Garryowen), E Coughlan (Shannon); O Michel (Lansdowne), J McCormick (Ballymena), D McSweeney (Shannon); C O’Tighearnaigh (UCD), A McNamee (Malone); J McNabney (Ballymena), R Crothers (Ballynahinch, capt), L McLoughlin (QUB).

Replacements: G Coomer (UCC) for Hawkshaw (21-31 mins); G Hadden (Gorey) for Michel (48 mins); K Ryan (Shannon) for McSweeney (48 mins); S Prendergast (Lansdowne) for Butler (48 mins); J Hanlon (Ballynahinch) for McCormick (54 mins); Coomber for McCarthy (56 mins); R O’Sullivan (Highfield) for Crothers (56 mins); C Irvine (QUB) for O’Tighearnaigh (60 mins); D Mangan (UCD) for McNamee (60 mins); M Moloney (UCD) for Coughlan (60 mins); G Shaw (Cardiff University) for McLoughlin (71 mins); R Malone (Loughborough University) for Hawkshaw (77 mins).

France: M Auriac; E Randle, E Gailleton, N Depoortere, L Bielle-Biarrey; L Barre, B Janueau; T Moukoro, C Sa, E Yemsi; S M’Foudi, L Labarthe; N Della Schiava, M Baudonne, K Tixeront.

Replacements: G Masse for Randle (33 mins); J Coulon for Tixeront (41 mins); R Portat for L Labarthe (41 mins); P Emmanuel-Pacheco for Mokouro (46 mins); R Bellemand for Yemsi (48 mins); V Montgaillard for Sa (56 mins); L Banos for Della Sciava (59 mins); M Garcia for Barre (59 mins); M Suta for M’Foudi (66 mins).

Referee: Adriaan Jacobs (South Africa)

Yellow card: S M’Foudi (France) (21 mins). J Coulon (France) (65 mins).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer