Strong second half showing sees France U20s put Ireland to the sword
France U20s 34 Ireland U20s 13
Nigel Carolan’s U-20 side were out-muscled in the second-half in Narbonne as they fell to their second defeat of the Six Nations.
Two tries from French lock Florian Verhaegue settled the encounter as Ireland failed to bounce back from their opening defeat to Wales.
It was Ireland’s fifth defeat in a row in the U-20 Six Nations, they last won at home to France in last year’s championship, but they could not compete with the home side’s second-half onslaught.
Out-half Anthony Belleau was outstanding from the tee and he landed six of his seven kicks on the night. And despite first-half efforts from Peter Claffey and James Ryan Ireland could repeat their heroics from Grenoble in 2012 when they won in France for the first time in this grade.
Ireland were 17-13 down at half-time although they dominated territory and possession. Ireland went ahead after seven minutes when France were pinged for going in off their feet, and Johnny McPhillips slotted the penalty from in front of the posts.
But French No 10 Belleau kicked his side level, in the 21st minute when Ireland came in from the side. Ireland still had much of the possession, and made numerous visits to the opposing 22. On one such foray just before the half-hour Claffey dotted down their first try.
Ireland forced a penalty and when McPhillips kicked to the corner, the pack did the rest. James Ryan came up just short but the ball was re-cycled for the Galwegians clubman to get the score.
McPhillips missed the conversion and France almost made them paywithin two minutes – Judicaël Cancoriet broke for the line, he was hauled down. But when Gabriel N’Gandebe latched onto his off-loaded he looked certain to score only for a tremendous last ditch tackle from captain Ryan.
But from the subsequent scrum Ireland were forced to drag France down, as they got the shove on, and Belleau’s simple conversion put them 10-8 up.
Straight from the kick-off Ireland won a penalty, again McPhillips went to the corner and it was carbon-copy of Ireland’s first effort. But this time Ryan got the try his hard work deserved.
However McPhillips missed his second kick of the evening, and France had one more reply before the break. Wing N’Gandebe touched down in the corner after the Ireland defence got stretched and France led at half-time. But it was a totally different game after the break and within three minutes France pushed 20-13 in front from another Belleau penalty.
Ireland had no response as France trundled forward time and again, and as the French unloaded their massive bench Verhaegue crossed the whitewash for his first in the 56th minute.
Belleau landed his fifth kick with the conversion and when Verheague doubled his tally with 17 minutes remaining the game was up for Ireland.
Scorers – France: F Verhaegue 2, G N’Gandebe, penalty tries; A Belleau 4 cons; A Belleau 2 pens.
Ireland: P Claffey, J Ryan tries; J McPhillips pen.
France: R Buros; G N’Gandebe, D Penaud (A Pilati 71), A Arrate (A Septar 60), E Roudil; A Belleau, C Kaiser (B Couilloud 52); C Castets (E El Ansari 52), P Mauvaka (P Bourgarit 60), M Simutoga (E Setiano 52); F Verhaegue, M Tanguy (T Hannoyer 71); M Voisin (JB Grenod 59), J Cancoriet, A Jelonch.
Ireland: H Keenan; M Byrne, S Daly (T Kennedy 46), J O’Brien, C O’Brien; J McPhillips (B Connon 66), J Poland (S Kerins 66); A Porter (J Bollard 72), A McBurney (S Fenton 61), C Kenny (C O’Donnell 51); P Claffey, J Ryan; C Gallagher, D Walsh (S O’Connor 57), M Deegan (K Brown 47).
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England).