'They have massive support here but we had high hopes' - Ireland skipper disappointed following opening defeat
France 26 Ireland 24
Ireland captain Caelan Doris said the team will try to bounce back and keep their semi-final hopes alive against South Africa on Sunday after going down to hosts France in a cracking opening game to the World Rugby U-20 Championship in Perpignan last night.
Ireland surrendered a 17-5 interval lead but came with a late surge to snatch a bonus point, which could be invaluable after out-half Harry Byrne crossed four minutes from time.
The prospect of a shock victory was on the cards for Noel McNamara's men when they recovered from a poor start to lead 17-5 at the break.
But France, dominant in the scrum, turned on the power and style after the restart to run out deserved winners and leave Ireland needing to beat South Africa in Narbonne to have any hope of making the semi-finals.
"They have massive support here as well, but we had high hopes coming into it and unfortunately we fell just short. It's very disappointing," said Doris.
"There was a lot of positives. We have two massive games now with South Africa and Georgia and the focus turns to them and getting our recovery right for South Africa."
Ireland's hopes of a bright start were dashed even before the game when loosehead prop James French was injured in the warm-up. Jordan Duggan filled the void left by French in the starting team.
And France, the Six Nations champions at this level, wasted little time in laying down a marker, opting to run a penalty inside the 22 after Irish out-half Byrne was charged down.
It was a wise move as the French worked it wide for Maxine Marty to score in the left corner.
Romain Ntamack, son of former French star Emile, missed the conversion and was also off target with a penalty from 40 metres on the left after 14 minutes.
In between, Byrne was unable to find the target with a penalty from 40 metres on the left but he got Ireland off the mark after 18 minutes with a successful kick from 25 metres to cut the gap to 5-3.
Ireland's injury problems continued when they lost debutant winger Dan Hurley after 27 minutes, but by then they had hit the front with some precision attacking.
They patiently built several phases and flanker Joe Dunleavy supplied the finish, with Byrne adding the conversion to make it 10-5 after 22 minutes.
France, with Marty always looking dangerous down the left, squandered a couple of try-scoring chances.
And replacement winger Sean O'Brien did enough to get across and deny Marty a certain try.
At the other end, winger Tom Roche intercepted to dash over but the move was whistled back for a high tackle on Ntamack which earned Irish tighthead Jack Aungier ten minutes in the bin.
Ireland made light of the loss of a man and actually increased their lead before the break, again showing commendable composure and patience to build the phases inside the 22.
Scrum-half Hugh O'Sullivan was the one to spot a gap and he dived over, with Byrne converting to make it 17-5 at the interval.
But that was as good as it got for Ireland as France took charge after the restart with some powerful rugby.
It took them less than five minutes to wipe out that advantage after the restart, with scrum-half Arthur Coville scoring. That was followed by a Ntamack score, who duly converted, to push France 19-17 in front.
They increased the lead after 51 minutes when Marty got his second try in the left corner after a superb break by full-back Hassane Kolingar, with Ntamack converting from the touchline to make it 26-17.
But Ireland never gave up and were duly rewarded when replacement scrum-half Jonny Stewart put Byrne over to secure a bonus point.
France - C Laporte; L Tauzin, P L Barassi, A Seguret, M Marty; R Ntamack, A Coville (c); H Kolingar, M Lamothe, D Brennan; T Lavault, K Geraci; S Zegueur, C Woki, C Francoz. Reps: J Joseph for Zegueur (33); D Bamba for Brennan (h-t); G Marchand for Lamothe (50); JB Gros for Kolingar (50); P-H Azagoh for Geraci (56); J Gimbert for Coville (66); M Lebal for Marty (66).
Ireland - M Silvester; T Roche, T O'Brien, P Sylvester, D Hurley; H Byrne, H O'Sullivan; J French, D Barron, J Aungier; M Dalton, J Dunne; J Dunleavy, M Agnew, C Doris. Reps: S O'Brien for Hurley (28); J Byrne for Agnew (37-46); C Dean for H Byrne (50-59 HIA); C Daly for Dalton (50 HIA); J Byrne for Aungier (57); A Hall for Dunleavy (68); J Stewart for O'Sullivan (68); D Sheehan for Barron (76).
REF - K Dickson (RFU).
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