France expose gulf in class with impressive rout of Ireland
Hopes for a competitive Six Nations meeting were dashed as semi-pro visitors ran riot
France’s Caroline Boujard scores her second try during the Six Nations win over Ireland in Donnybrook. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images
Ireland 15 France 56
Ireland were brought back to reality with a resounding thud by a France side bursting full of power, skill and pace in the Donnybrook sunshine.
It was encouraging to see IRFU performance director David Nucifora and Anthony Eddy, the women’s director of rugby, standing stoically-distanced behind the Bective Rangers posts. As Ireland trailed 38-8 at half-time, at least the Australian double act bore witness to the gulf in class between amateur and professional nations.
The budget, the budget, the budget is the immediate response to the rising din for a strategic plan to be unveiled - a roadmap for the Irish players to plan their actual careers around - as fears of an ever-widening gulf between truly elite nations and the rest was confirmed by this result.
Ireland were error strewn and courageous in equal measure, as France cut loose with five first half tries, eight in total, and hopes of the women’s Six Nations championship finally delivering a competitive contest fell flat on its face.
Ireland’s malfunctioning set piece denied them any chance of living with these French giants.
From Hannah Tyrrell’s kick-off, when the ball was bounced forward by Emeline Gros, the scrum examination began. Twice the Ireland eight was wheeled before referee Sarah Cox gave them a penalty.
It was a lucky break to say the least.
When Cliodhna Moloney floated a lineout throw well over Nichola Fryday’s outstretched fingertips it became apparent that they were in for a chastising afternoon against physically superior athletes.
France, directed by outhalf Caroline Drouin, torched the grass at every opportunity.
Dorothy Wall went about her wrecking ball duties but the Tipperary blindside was matched in most exchanges by Gros and the outstanding Marjorie Mayans while Madoussou Fall and Safi N’Diaye brought a surge that exposed gaping standards between the sides.
The first try came off a dominant scrum, allowing the electric Emilie Boulard to storm into the line, drawing fellow fullback Eimear Considine before a perfect pass had Caroline Boujard gliding away.
The second touchdown showed just how lethal France can be in transition. Laure Sansus gathered Considine’s attempted offload before a gorgeous kick down the right tramline had Boulard outpacing Eve Higgins - the Irish centre marked the player not the ball - as a delicate toe poke allowed her to finish a 60 metre swing in territory.
The third was a penalty try after the French maul steamrolled the Irish pack. Just to twist the knife, Aoife McDermott got 10 minutes in the sin bin for collapsing the juggernaut.
Ireland, to their credit, showed some street smarts with Moloney’s quick and low lineout giving the hooker a chance to pilot the maul over for one of two very similar tries.
France responded through a familiar sight for Irish defences down through the years: Safi N’Diaye rumbling over smaller bodies.
When Béibhinn Parsons, Irish rugby’s rising star, finally got a chance to run, Cyrielle Banet, her opposite number, ripped possession clean off her before sprinting clear.
Considine constantly tried to run from deep and create something, anything, but France’s brutal defence and set piece security drained all the energy from Ireland’s key women.
When Boujard scored her second try five minutes after the interval the rout became unavoidable.
Griggs reacted to a sloppy supply chain by replacing halfbacks Tyrrell and Kathryn Dane, with Sevens trio Emily Lane, Stacey Flood and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe entering the fray.
Lane improved the tempo at scrumhalf and Flood was classy but, really, it made no difference. Next, Romane Menager finished off a string of spectacular offloads by fending off Considine and galloping over the tryline.
It got worse before the finish as Drouin’s second penalty pierced the half century for France after Murphy Crowe was yellowed carded for a high tackle on her debut.
Banet made it eight tries to one before Emma Hooban was shunted over for Ireland’s consolation score that will do little to boost confidence ahead of next week’s third place play off away to Scotland or Italy.
Scoring sequence – 5 mins: H Tyrrell pen, 0-3; 13 mins: C Boujard try 5-3; C Drouin con, 7-3; E Boulard try, 12-3; C Drouin con, 14-3; Pen Try, 21-3; 25 mins: C Moloney try, 21-8; 29 mins: C Drouin pen, 24-8; 34 mins: S N’Diaye try, 29-8; C Drouin con, 31-8; 38 mins: C Boujard try, 36-8; C Drouin pen, 38-8. Half-time. 45 mins: C Banet try, 43-8; 55 mins: R Menager try, 48-8; 65 mins: C Drouin pen, 51-8; C Banet try, 56-8; 74 mins: E Hooban try, 56-13; S Flood con, 56-15.
Ireland: Eimear Considine; Lauren Delany, Eve Higgins, Sene Naoupu, Béibhinn Parsons; Hannah Tyrrell, Kathryn Dane; Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang; Aoife McDermott, Nichola Fryday; Dorothy Wall, Claire Molloy, Ciara Griffin (capt).
Replacements: Brittany Hogan for McDermott, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe for Delany (both 48 mins), Hannah O’Connor for Molloy, Emily Lane for Dane, Stacey Flood for Tyrrell (all 53 mins), Emma Hooban for Peat, Katie O’Dwyer for Moloney, Laura Feely for Djougang (all 59 mins).
France: Emilie Boulard; Cyrielle Banet, Carla Neisen, Jade Ulutule, Caroline Boujard; Caroline Drouin, Laure Sansus; Annaëlle Deshaye, Agathe Sochat, Rose Bernadou; Madoussou Fall, Safi N’Diaye; Marjorie Mayans, Gaëlle Hermet (capt), Emeline Gros.
Replacements: Clara Joyeux for Bernadou, Romane Menager for Gros (both 48 mins), Pauline Bourdon for Sansus, Coumba Diallo for Hermet (both 56 mins), Maïlys Traoré for Deshaye, Gabrielle Vernier for Neisen (both 62 mins), Morgane Peyronnet for Boujard, Laure Touyé for Sorchat (both 66 mins).
Referee: Sara Cox (RFU).