A massive French pack brought Ireland's winning start to an abrupt end at Dubarry Park last night.
The visitors ran in for six tries as Ireland fell to only their second defeat in 14 U-20 internationals.
Ireland were forced to make eight changes due to injuries and Magners League commitments from the side which defeated Italy last week. The result was an unequal match against a giant French pack which was plucked from eight different clubs in France.
The excellent Paddy Jackson gave Ireland a perfect start as early pressure forced the penalty and the Ulsterman made no mistake from the left inside two minutes.
But once the French forwards got on top Ireland struggled and it was all one-way traffic. France led 21-6 at the interval but while they deserved to be ahead, two of their three tries should not have counted as one contained a forward pass and for another, scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues was clearly offside in helping winger Pierre Berard get over.
Ireland finished the half strongly with Jackson giving them some hope with a superb penalty from the 10-metre line.
Any hopes of an Irish fightback were blown away inside two minutes after the restart when Marvin O'Connor broke down the left for the visitors' fourth try, with Jean-Marc Doussain landing the touchline conversion.
Hooker Romain Colliat got their fifth after 53 minutes but even at 33-6, Ireland regrouped and rallied.
Captain Niall Annett bulldozed over for a try off a line-out in the left corner, with the impressive Jackson adding the points, but a succession of replacements and confusion over uncontested scrums disrupted the remainder of the game. Ireland played out the final 15 minutes with 14 men after replacement prop Finlay Bealham was forced to go off and referee Giuseppe Vivarini ruled that he could not be replaced.
Inevitably, the French got over again with centre Jules Plisson becoming their sixth try scorer when he crossed at the death. Mike Ruddock's men will hope to get their campaign back on track when they go to Scotland in two weeks.
Ireland -- M Sherlock (Leinster); T O'Halloran (Connacht), A Kelly (Leinster), N McDonald (Coventry), A Boyle (Leinster); P Jackson (Ulster), B McIlroy (Ulster); J Tracy(Leinster), N Annett (Ulster), C Carey (Ulster); D O'Mahony (Munster), D Qualter (Connacht); D Heffernan (Connacht), A Conneely (Connacht), J Murphy (Leinster). Reps: F Bealham (Ulster) for Carey, 40; I Henderson (Ulster) for O'Mahony, 54; JJ Hanrahan (Munster) for O'Halloran, 61; S Buckley (Munster) for Heffernan, 68; P du Toit (Leinster) for McIroy, 68; J McKinney (Ulster) for Boyle, 78.
France -- G Palis (SC Albis); P Berard (Montpellier), JP Barraque (Biarritz), J Plisson (Stade Francais), M O'Connor (FC Grenoble); M Doussain (Toulouse), Y Lesgourgues (Biarritz); S Taoffenua (Perpignan), R Collait (Castres), W Desmaison (Avoron Bayonnais); W Demotte (Clermont), S Vahaamahina (Brive); K Gimeno (Montpellier), J Come (Racing Metro), G Galan (Toulouse). Reps: C Bourgeois (Section Paloise) for Colliat, 53; V Delmas (Colomiers) for Desmaison, 53; M Marie (Biarritz) for Vahaamahina, 55; J Buttin (Clermont) for O'Connor, 55; L Magnaval (Toulon) for Yann, 65; P Julien (Agen) for Gimeno, 65, T Visensang (Aviron Bayonnais) for Taoffenua, 68.
Ref -- G Vivarini (Italy).