Bourke's late brace of tries not enough to deny French Slam glory
France 19 Ireland 15
Published 15/03/2014 | 02:30
Ireland came up just short, despite a late comeback, as France won the Women's Six Nations championship and the Grand Slam for the first time since 2005.
Philip Doyle's side were forced to defend for large periods of the game, but their late flurry wasn't enough as France edged an enthralling game in front of a 12,000-strong crowd in Pau.
France went into the game having not conceded a single try in the campaign as well as keeping Scotland, Wales and Italy scoreless.
The game looked to be beyond Ireland when Shannon Izar touched down under the posts 10 minutes after the restart for a 19-3 lead, but two late Gill Bourke tries gave them hope of an unlikely comeback.
France came flying out of the traps and wasted little time in making their early dominance count on the scoreboard. Winger Marion Lievre touched down for the game's first points after just five minutes.
France should have doubled their advantage but Claire Molloy brilliantly managed to hold Safi N'Diaye up when it looked like the No 8 would score.
That scrambled, last-ditch defence became a common theme throughout the first half, but Ireland held firm as France took just a 5-0 lead into the break.
Ireland did have championship hopes of their own, but needed a 20-point win, which was always going to be a tough ask against a French side, who were seeking to exact revenge for last year's defeat in Ashbourne as well as the small matter of clinching a Grand Slam.
France began the second half much like the first and it didn't take them long to add their second try of the game. Their patient build-up play was rewarded as they went through the phases before prop Elodie Portaries burrowed her way over for a try which Sandrine Agricole converted.
Niamh Briggs eventually got Ireland on the board when she slotted over a penalty, but France hit back in brilliant fashion, Agricole's perfectly weighted pass putting Izar in under the posts. The fly-half added the straightforward conversion for a 19-3 lead and Ireland looked dead and buried.
France emptied their bench and Ireland began to play their way back into it. Bourke crashed over from close range before the hooker added her second try of the game after another superb rolling maul.
Briggs converted to set up a grandstand finish, but it proved to be too little too late.
France – C Le Duff (J Tremouliere 54); M Lievre, S Izar (E Puoblan 58), M Mayans, C Grassineau; S Agricole, J Troncy; H Ezanno (L Arricastre 48), G Mignot (capt, L Salles 53), E Portaries (J Duval 58); M De Nadai, A Koita (S Rabier 69); K Djossouvi (L Grand 60), C Diallo, S N'Diaye.
Ireland – N Briggs; A Baxter (H Casey 70), L Cantwell, J Murphy, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; F Coghlan (capt), G Bourke, A Egan (SL Kennedy 63, G Davitt 65); S Spence, ML Reilly; S Fleming (P Fitzpatrick 60), C Molloy, H O'Brien.
REF – L Berard (USA).