France’s lethal 10 minutes blows Ireland away in Perpignan

Leading 17-5 at half-time, Ireland were opened up by hosts on re-start

Ireland’s Hugh O’Sullivan celebrates scoring his side’s  second try  in the  World Rugby Under-20 Championship at  Stade Aime-Giral in Perpignan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland’s Hugh O’Sullivan celebrates scoring his side’s second try in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship at Stade Aime-Giral in Perpignan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

France Under-20 26 Ireland Under-20 24

Fortune doesn’t always favour the brave because if it did, Ireland would have won their opening World Under-20 Championship encounter at Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan on Wednesday night. France played the better rugby and their three converted tries in the 10 minutes after half-time transformed a 17-5 deficit into what ultimately proved a game-winning lead.

Ireland’s Diarmuid Barron, Tommy O’Brien, Caelan Doris, Jack Dunne and Matthew Agnew were standout performers but every member of the pack deserves huge credit. The disappointment will be acute because with a little better discipline they could have rescued a victory.  

The first half was laden with incidents. France’s left wing Maxime Marty might have crossed for a hat-trick of tries but had to settle for one, denied by a brilliant cover tackle at the corner flag and then when his fullback Clement Laporte butchered a simple two-on-one run-in by delaying the pass.

If the Ireland defence enjoyed a charmed existence on those occasions, they fully deserved their 17-5 half-time lead, based on a monumental performance from the pack.

The visitors discovered a soft underbelly when taking on the French defence through the middle and on the fringes of rucks, and it was a precursor to their two tries, the first from Donegal-born flanker Joe Dunleavy and a sharp finish from the excellent scrumhalf Hugh O’Sullivan in first-half injury time.

At that point Ireland were a man down, tighthead prop Jack Aungier penalised for a high tackle on French outhalf Romain Ntamack. It was a particularly costly indiscretion because as play initially continued Ireland’s right wing Tom Roche stepped in to intercept a French pass and raced 40-metres to the French line.

However, after consulting with the television match official Graham Hughes, referee Karl Dickson, the former Harlequins scrumhalf, ruled out the try and brandished the yellow card. A word too for his immediate replacement Joe Byrne, he came on and locked out a couple of scrums when his team had seven forwards.    

Whatever pep talk France received at the interval it worked as they scored three tries within 10 minutes of the re-start through their halfbacks, Coville and Ntamack and a second from Marty – the latter converted all three – but appreciably facilitated by some naive and brittle Irish defence. It was an issue during the Six Nations and it resurfaced in Perpignan; too many missed straight up tackles.

Unfortunately the malaise spread to the lineout and the scrum, Ireland’s error-rate began to spiral as they fatigued but there is plenty of character and courage in this team and despite the physical ravages of the contest they scored a third try on 71 minutes, scored and converted by Harry Byrne to make it 26-24 to the home side. The outstanding Barron carried brilliantly several times.  

But just when Ireland needed to be precise and clinical they conceded three quick penalties that allowed the home side a lineout five metres from the Irish line – bizarrely France turned down a kick at goal – but the visitors snaffled the ball back and a great run and kick by Johnny Stewart gave Ireland one final opportunity; a final turnover allowed France to hold out.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 4 mins: Marty try, 5-0; 17: H Byrne penalty, 5-3; 21: Dunleavy try, H Byrne conversion, 5-10; 40 (+1): O’Sullivan try, H Byrne conversion, 5-17. Half-time: 5-17. 43: Coville try, Ntamack conversion, 12-17; 44: Ntamack try, Ntamack try conversion, 19-17; 50: Marty try, Ntamack try, 26-17; 71: H Byrne try, H Byrne conversion, 26-24.

FRANCE U-20: C Laporte; L Tauzin, P-L Barassi, A Securet, M Marty; R Ntamack, A Coville; H Kolincar, M Lamothe, D Brennan; T Lavault, K Geraci; S Zegueur, C Woki, C Francoz.

Replacements: J Joseph for Zegueur (32 mins); D Bamba for Brennan (half-time); J B Gros for Kollingar; G Marchand for Lamothe (both 50 mins); P-H Azagoh for Geraci  (55 mins); J Gimbert for Coville; M Lebel for Marty (both 65 mins).

IRELAND U-20: M Silvester (Dublin University); T Roche (Lansdowne), T O’Brien (UCD), P Sylvester (UCC), D Hurley (Young Munster); H Byrne (UCD), H O’Sullivan (Clontarf); J French (UCC), D Barron(Garryowen), J Aungier (St Mary’s College); M Dalton (Malone), J Dunne(Dublin University); J Dunleavy (Malone), M Agnew (Ballymena), C Doris (St Mary’s College, capt).

Replacements: S O’Brien (Clontarf) for Hurley (27 mins); J Byrne (Dublin University) for Dunleavy (36-43 mins) and for Aungier (57 mins); C Daly (Clontarf) for Dalton (HIA, 50 mins); C Dean (St Mary’s College) for H Byrne (HIA, 50-58 mins); A Hall (Ballynahinch) for Dunleavy; J Stewart (QUB) for O’Sullivan (both 67 mins); D Sheehan (Dublin University) for Barron (75 mins).

Yellow card: Jack Aungier (Ireland) 33 mins.

Referee: K Dickson (England)

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