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France too strong for Ireland with dominant performance in Narbonne

It was a 21-point defeat for Nigel Carolan’s side.

France's Damian Penaud with Shane Daly and Jimmy O'Brien of Ireland.
France's Damian Penaud with Shane Daly and Jimmy O'Brien of Ireland.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

France U20s 34
Ireland U20s 13

THE IRISH U20s side suffered a second successive Six Nations defeat, losing by 21 points to a French side at the Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l’Amitié in Narbonne this evening.

Nigel Carolan’s side went toe-to-toe with their hosts in the early stages but were blown away as the game carried on. The French side are now unbeaten at home since losing to Wales in 2013.

It is a fifth successive defeat for the U20s but they looked to give themselves a decent chance in the game, going in just four points down at the break, 17-13, thanks to tries from Peter Claffey and James Ryan.

Two second half tries from Florian Verhaegue put the game beyond reach, however as France followed up their 37-point victory over Italy last weekend with another comfortable win.

Ireland put the first points on the board courtesy of the boot of English-born Ulster out-half Johnny McPhillips in the opening minutes.

Their defensive work was much stronger than it had been at times against Wales in Donnybrook last weekend as was their composure.

The hosts began to turn the screw backed by the partisan crowd in Racing Club Narbonne’s home and they were rewarded with a 20 minute penalty from Toulon academy out half Anthony Belleau, who would go on to show great composure from the kicking tee for the duration of the evening.

Yet, the Irish showed determination to score the opening try as second row Claffey scored off the back of a line out maul after some superb work from Ryan at 26 minutes.

The hosts showed both their sheer physical power and mental strength as they were awarded a penalty try two minutes later by English referee Craig Maxwell-Keys.

Then Ireland replied as Ryan crossed the whitewash to take the game to 13-10 in favour of the visitors.

There was an immediate reply from the aggressive French pack and after some fumbled passing, wing Gabriel N’Gandebe evaded the Irish chasers to score on the stroke of half time, taking the score to 17 – 13 in their favour but the psychological blow was immense.

From the beginning of the second half it was apparent that Ireland were beginning to tire rapidly.

A brace of tries in quick at 55 and 63 succession a from powerful second row Florian Verhaegue left this relatively inexperience Ireland side overwhelmed and the hosts were able to maintain their comfortable margin for the remainder of the game.

FRANCE U20: R Buros; G N’Gandebe, D Penaud , A Arrate , E Roudil ; A Belleau , C Kaiser ; C Castets (capt), P Mauvaka , M Simutoga , F Verhaegue , M Tanguy, M Voisin, J Cancoriet, A Jelonch.

IRELAND U20: H Keenan; M Byrne , S Daly , J O’Brien , C O’Brien ; J McPhillips , J Poland ; A Porter, A McBurney , C Kenny; P Claffey, J Ryan (capt); C Gallagher, D Walsh, M Deegan.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England).

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Kate Rowan

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