MIKE RUDDOCK'S Ireland could not quite find the form that put them within a whisker of the semi-finals when falling 9-8 to France in the Under-20 World Cup 5th-8th place play-off in an electric atmosphere at Stade Henri Desgrange in La Roche-sur-Yon last night.
The Irish got off to close to the worst possible start when wing Darren Sweetnam was yellow carded by referee Andrew Lees in the first minute for Baptiste Serin to nudge the French 3-0 in front from a penalty.
The visitors did not lose their composure like they did in the same circumstances against New Zealand five days previously, holding on for Sweetnam to return and for centre Rory Scannell to miss a penalty in the 14th minute.
Ireland were also forced into making two changes in the front row as props Adam Boland and Edward Byrne were called into action in the second quarter.
This did not detract from Ireland's approach play, especially when number eight Ryan Murphy made the breakthrough on the half-hour for 5-3 before scrum-half Serin recovered the lead with his second penalty just before the break.
It was going to take all the character Ireland have shown to haul France in as Serin posted his third penalty to the appreciation of the home crowd in the 48th minute.
The stalemate continued with neither side able to establish a definitive domination in any area as defences ruled the roost until Scannell struck a penalty in the 64th minute. In fact, Scannell could have stolen it in injury-time with a shot for glory which was off target, meaning they will renew their rivalry with Pool enemies Australia in the 7th-8th place play-off.
It was a case of what might have been for Ireland as Wales made their first U20 World Cup final at the one-point expense of holders South Africa (18-17).
In fact, it will be a Six Nations decider. England finally laid their New Zealand hoodoo in this competition, claiming a 33-21 victory in the second semi-final in Vannes last night.