Friday 15 December 2017

France hold off brave Irish to complete clean sweep

France U-20 23 Ireland U-20 13

Mike Ruddock
Mike Ruddock

Ireland were unable to deny France the Grand Slam, but their performance will please Mike Ruddock ahead of the sides' next meeting at this summer's Junior World Cup.

Ireland did well to stay in touch against a physically dominant French side, and Frankie Taggart's try drew them level with 14 minutes remaining.

However, a third penalty from Baptiste Serin and a late try from Jean-Blaise Lespinasse clinched the title for Fabien Pelous' men.

Ruddock's side got off to a fine start and after flanker Yacouba Camara conceded France's third penalty in the opening five minutes, Conor McKeon landed a tricky kick from the right to give Ireland a 3-0 lead.

It took France just five minutes to level when Serin punished an offside Ireland, and the home side took the lead when hooker Romain Ruffenach mauled over the line.

From the restart, Camara denied Adam Byrne a certain try with a great tackle in the corner, but Ireland would have been satisfied to trail by just 10-3 at the break.

The superior French scrum forced a penalty that Serin kicked but Ireland refused to be shaken off and replacement Ross Byrne made it 13-6 just before the hour mark.

Taggart crashed over in the 66th minute after a great line-break from Peter Dooley and Byrne slotted the conversion to draw the sides level.

But after Byrne missed a 70th-minute penalty, Serin put France back in front, and replacement flanker Lespinasse wrapped up the win.

France U-20 – P Justes; K Hamdaoui, X Mignot, F Bouvier, L Blanc; B Fajardo, B Serin; O Ishchenko (Y Amrouni 72), R Ruffenach (F Ardiaca 59), T Raynaud (S Courcoul 51); A Iturria, J-B Singer (F Lambey 57); J Thomas (J-B Lespinasse 47), Y Camara, F Cros.

Ireland U-20 – C Kelleher; A Wootton, D Goggin, P Robb, A Byrne; C McKeon (R Byrne 45), J Cullen (N McCarthy 45); P Dooley, M Abbott, R Burke; S O'Brien, R Molony; P Timmins, R Moloney (F Taggart 35-40 blood & 55), J O'Donoghue.

Ref – L Linton (SRU)

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