Spirited fightback comes up short for Ireland U-20's in Bordeaux
France 34 Ireland 24
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