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Spirited fightback comes up short for Ireland U-20's in Bordeaux

France 34 Ireland 24

Jonathan Stewart of Ireland during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade Amédée Domenech in Brive, France. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile
Jonathan Stewart of Ireland during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade Amédée Domenech in Brive, France. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile

Billy Kiely

A spirited comeback came up short for the Irish U-20 side at Stade Delmas in Bordeaux but there was enough evidence to suggest this is a side which will improve as the Six Nations progresses.

In the end Ireland paid the price for a slack opening half when Romain Ntamack, son of former French star Emile, ran riot and exploited some gaping holes in the Irish defence.

Indeed, by half-time it seemed that Ireland were on a damage limitation exercise when they trailed by 22-3. But they cut out the errors after the restart and a more disciplined display saw them right back in contention before the French rallied.

Ireland left empty-handed when out-half Harry Byrne, flawless all night, was unable to land a difficult penalty when a kick to the corner and a possible fourth try might have yielded a big dividend.

The Irish set-piece, particularly the scrum, was solid but basic handling errors in open play in the first-half prevented Ireland from building quality phases.

Ntamack struck for the opening try after 13 minutes when he spotted a gap and slid over for a score which he converted himself for a 10-0 lead.

Byrne, brother of Leinster out-half Ross, pulled back a penalty for Ireland after 22 minutes when the French collapsed a scrum.

France temporarily lost 132kg prop Daniel Brennan, son of former Irish international Trevor, to injury after 30 minutes but by then they looked out of sight.

Bordeaux-Begles flanker Cameron Woki scored their second try off a lineout in the right corner after 18-year old Ntamack went to the corner with a penalty under the posts. Ntamack then converted his second try after 29 minutes when he sliced through poor Irish defence in midfield to leave them 22-3 in front at the break.

Ireland got back into contention after 54 minutes when full-back Michael Silvestre was taken out by French winger Iban Etcheverry as he chased a grubber from Byrne, with referee Christophe Ridley dishing out a yellow card and awarding a penalty try.

Scrum-half Jonny Stewart gave Ireland hopes of a comeback when he sniped to score in the right corner, with Byrne converting from the touchline to cut the gap to 22-17 going into the final quarter.

But it was the French who got the next try when replacement scrum-half Jules Gimbert scored their fourth try.

The Irish did not give up and scored a superb try when David McCarthy and Tommy O'Brien combined to break from deep and send winger James McCarthy through for a try which Byrne again converted to reduce the margin to 27-24 four minutes from time.

However, France wrapped it up with a late try from replacement prop Demba Bamba and Ireland left empty-handed when Byrne missed a difficult penalty at the death.

Independent.ie's U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC

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