France Federale 12 Ireland club xv 16
Conor Smyth's charge-down try proved crucial for the Ireland Club international team as they overcame the France Fédérale side 16-12 at Stade Jules Ladoumègue, Massy.
Replacement lock Smyth from Ballymena blocked an attempted clearance in the French 22 and collected the loose ball to score the game's only try in the 66th minute. Lansdowne's Scott Deasy converted and also kicked three penalties.
Coached by Paul Cunningham (Old Belvedere) and captained by Clontarf centre Matt D’Arcy, this was an historic result for Ireland’s Ulster Bank League stars as they won on their first ever visit to France.
Last year’s inaugural meeting of the countries’ club elite saw the French outfit claimed a four-try 37-20 victory at the Aviva Stadium, but Ireland’s defence was very much on top last night.
In front of a 1,228-strong crowd at Stade Jules Ladoumègue, both teams picked up points from their first visits to the 22, with out-halves Stephane Guenin and Deasy swapping penalties inside the opening four minutes.
France had the early territory and looked threatening with ball in hand, most notably pacy winger Pierre Lafitte, but the visitors employed the choke tackle to very good effect and won a series of turnovers.
Guenin rewarded a powerful French scrum with a terrific long range penalty on the quarter hour, and Daniel Riordan blew Ireland’s first try-scoring opportunity soon after. He had done all the hard work, breaking free from halfway off a D’Arcy pass, but the experienced full-back was adjudged to have lost the ball forward in the act of scoring.
Deasy did draw Ireland level with a second successful penalty and two rapid breaks from the excellent Mark Roche showed how dangerous the Ireland Sevens international could be off his left wing.
However, Deasy missed two further penalty attempts - a right-sided effort bounced back off the post and a monster effort just before half-time fell short.
French captain Paul Dubert, kicking in the absence of the injured Guenin, edged the hosts in front (9-6) with a 38th minute kick, set up by a superb midfield surge from Thomas Anies.
Into the second half, Ireland again failed to capitalise on their attacking opportunities as Olivier Laurent’s men held up a maul in the 22 and a slick move involving Charlie Butterworth, D’Arcy and Roche was spoilt by a sloppy ruck penalty.
There were errors aplenty during a scrappy third quarter. Replacement prop Ivan Soroka came on to solidify the Irish scrum and then scoop up a loose ruck ball, but Deasy’s subsequent penalty shot from the left fell wide of the target.
Roche continued to find space near the left touchline and direct running from replacement Rodger McBurney caused France further problems as Ireland enjoyed a prolonged territorial dominance.
Handling errors let the French off the hook before Smyth, who came on at half-time, stretched his big frame to block Etienne Quiniou’s kick and crash over to the left of the posts.
Deasy converted and although French replacement Yann Dessis closed the gap to 13-12 with seven minutes remaining, the Lansdowne skipper soon slotted his third penalty goal of the night to seal a four-point success for Cunningham’s charges.
Credit to UCD centre Stephen Murphy for his clever midfield break in the lead up to that 76th minute kick, while Ciaran Ruddock, lively replacement scrum half Neil Cronin and the ever-influential Roche all came up with key defensive plays to shut out the French in the closing stages.
D’Arcy and his team-mates will aim to complete their short international campaign with a second win when their Scottish counterparts visit Temple Hill on Friday, March 18 (kick-off 7.30pm).
TIME LINE: 2 minutes - France penalty: Stephane Guenin - 3-0; 4 mins - Ireland penalty: Scott Deasy - 3-3; 16 mins - France penalty; Stephane Guenin - 6-3; 26 mins - Ireland penalty: Scott Deasy - 6-6; 35 mins - Ireland penalty: missed by Scott Deasy - 6-6; 38 mins - France penalty: Paul Dubert - 9-6; 40+3 mins - Ireland penalty: missed by Scott Deasy - 9-6; Half-time - France 9 Ireland 6; 60 mins - Ireland penalty: missed by Scott Deasy - 9-6; 66 mins - Ireland try: Connor Smyth - 9-11; conversion: Scott Deasy - 9-13; 73 mins - France penalty: Yann Dessis - 12-13; 76 mins - Ireland penalty: Scott Deasy - 12-16; Full-time - France 12 Ireland 16
FRANCE FEDERALE: Mael Moinot (US Bressane, Lyonnais); Pierre Lafitte (Avenir Valencien, Midi Pyrénées), Kévin Burgaud (Vannes, Bretagne), Thomas Anies (Céret, Pays Catalan), Stéphane Bonvalot (Nevers, Bourgogne); Stéphane Guenin (Libourne, Côte d'Argent), Paul Dubert (US Tyrosse, Côte Basque Landes) (capt); Jérôme Martinez (US Tyrosse, Côte Basque Landes), Philippe Rodriguez (US Tyrosse, Côte Basque Landes), Nicolas Kwarazfelia (Blagnac, Midi Pyrénées), Kevin Kahn (US Tyrosse, Côte Basque Landes), Jonathan Giraud (US Bressane, Lyonnais), Kévin Boukechiche (Céret, Pays Catalan), Damien Costanzo (Périgueux, Périgord Agenais), Damien Gateau (Saint Jean d'Angely, Poitou Charentes). Replacements: Pierre Trassoudane (Castanet, Midi Pyrénées), Thierry Berhabe (FC Oloron, Béarn), Jean Baptiste Lagain (US Tyrosse, Côte Basque Landes), Mohamed Kbaier (Valence Agen, Midi Pyrénées), Yann Dessis (Langon, Côte d'Argent), Djamel Ouchene (Libourne, Côte d'Argent), Etienne Quiniou (US Bressane, Lyonnais), Morgan Le Bourhis (US Bressane, Lyonnais).
IRELAND CLUB XV: Daniel Riordan (Old Belvedere); James McInerney (Garryowen), Stephen Murphy (UCD), Matt D'Arcy (Clontarf) (capt), Mark Roche (Lansdowne); Scott Deasy (Lansdowne), Angus Lloyd (Dublin University); Ian Prendiville (Lansdowne), Eddie Rossiter (Old Belvedere), Declan Lavery (Old Belvedere), Ciaran Ruddock (St. Mary's College), David Whann (Ballymena), Charlie Butterworth (Lansdowne), Paul Pritchard (Ballynahinch), Tony Ryan (Clontarf). Replacements used: Connor Smyth (Ballymena) for Whann (half-time), Ger Sweeney (Cork Constitution for Lavery, Ivan Soroka (Clontarf) for Prendiville (both 53 mins), Neil Cronin (Garryowen) for Lloyd, Rodger McBurney (Ballymena) for Riordan (both 60), Max Abbott (Cork Constitution) for Rossiter, Adrian D'Arcy (Clontarf) for Butterworth (both 70). Not used: Jack McDermott (Dublin University)
. Referee: Emmanuele Tomò (Italy)