Ireland U20s dig deep to record brilliant last-ditch win in France

Ben Brownlee crossed for a late try before Charlie Tector slotted the match-winning conversion.

Ireland's Ben Brownlee celebrates scoring a last minute try to win the game.
Ireland's Ben Brownlee celebrates scoring a last minute try to win the game.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

France U20s 16

Ireland U20s 17

THE IRELAND U20s dug deep to record an excellent win against France and make it two wins from two in the U20 Six Nations, Richie Murphy’s side becoming the first Irish team to win in France at this level since 2012.

For most of this contest it looked like Ireland would leave the south of France empty-handed, but their character and work ethic – along with some poor discipline from France – saw them survive wave after wave of pressure before striking right at the death through a Ben Brownlee penalty, out-half Charlie Tector slotting the match-winning conversion with the last action of the game.

Having watched his team stick eight tries on Wales in round one, head coach Richie Murphy made four changes to his team for the trip to Aix-en-Provence – with Aitzol King, Daniel Hawkshaw, Ethan Coughlan and Rory McGuire all coming into the starting XV. 

France made six changes from their own opening round win over Italy, and made a confident start in front of a vocal home crowd. They were quickly handed an opportunity to kick themselves into an early lead, but fullback Max Auriac was well off target with a long-range penalty.

charlie-tector-kicks-the-winning-conversion-of-the-game Charlie Tector slots the match-winning conversion. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Moments later he stepped up for his second kick of the night and slotted a much more kickable penalty as the hosts converted their early pressure into points on the scoreboard. Ireland responded with their first meaningful period of possession, although they initially found it difficult to make much ground against a ferocious France defence. 

An illegal tackle on Mark Morrissey allowed the visitors an opportunity to kick to the corner, but Ireland’s first visit to the France 22 was short-lived as the attack broke down due to an intercept.

Ireland managed to keep applying pressure and found themselves camped on the French line just after the 10 minute mark, loosehead Jack Boyle making his presence felt with a series of powerful carries, but France held out.

Ireland then got another shot from a five-metre lineout, and this time appeared to have made it count, Morrissey rising highest to claim the ball before a powerful Irish maul bulldozed over the line with James McNabney dotting down.

However, referee Hollie Davidson went to the TMO and crossed the score out, stating that captain Rueben Crothers had obstructed the French jumper in the lead-up to the try. It looked a harsh call and Ireland left empty-handed.

Having steam-rolled a poor Welsh side in Musgrave Park, Ireland had anticipated a sterner challenge in the south of France and while they were enjoying plenty of possession, they were finding it difficult to punch holes in the French defence.

Looking to play with the same intent and width as they had in Cork, passes spilled loose and attacks broke down as the French countered that ambition with good linespeed.

That said, there was also plenty to like about Ireland’s start to the game, with their forwards winning big collisions and some smart play across the backline, including a piece of excellent high fielding from Munster’s Patrick Campbell, who rolled back the years to his days with the Cork minor footballers. 

Ireland were now playing most of the rugby but France looked capable of striking at any moment. Captain Louis Le Brun saw an ambitious penalty effort drop short before Ireland stole a lineout to momentarily keep the hosts at bay.

james-culhane James Culhane carries into contact. Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

France made no mistake with their next opportunity however and from a smart lineout move hooker Victor Montgaillard gathered an excellent pop pass from second row Samuel M’foudi and went over, with Auriac converting the score to put Les Bleus 10-0 up with almost 30 minutes played.

Murphy’s side then lost possession on their next attacking lineout, only for France to cough up a sloppy penalty – their seventh in just over 30 minutes of rugby – which allowed Ireland another opportunity to kick to the corner.

This time Ireland’s work was much smoother and following a short series of pick-and-goes, Ulster’s James McCormick managed to muscle over from close range, with Leinster out-half Charlie Tector slotting the conversion.

A scrappy opening period ended amid some confusion, scrum-half Ethan Coughlan kicking the ball out of play thinking the 40 minutes were up, only for referee Davidson to signal there was still a couple of seconds left to play. It allowed France one last attack but the move quickly broke down as a frustrating, frantic first half came to a close.

While Murphy will have felt his team could have been in the lead at the break, a three-point deficit was a decent return given some of the easy avenues they had offered the French into the game.

France then made a blistering start to the second period as Ireland tried to stay in the contest. M’foudi tore down towards the left corner but Tector recovered well to bring the powerful lock to ground. Auriac then sent a cross-field kick in the direction of Jefferson Joseph but the French wing failed to gather under pressure from Shane Mallon.

The play went back for a French penalty and Auriac slotted his second three-pointer of the night.

France continued to attack in waves but some determined Ireland defence stopped them from pulling away. The excellent Crothers produced a massive turnover which provided his team with a much-needed lift following a difficult start to the second period.

The introduction of replacement scrum-half Matthew Devine also injected some tempo into Ireland’s play, and they clawed the deficit back to three points thanks to a well-struck Tector penalty.

Yet Ireland were having to work much harder for their scores, and almost immediately after Tector had split the posts that hard work was undone as an excellent effort from Auriac crept just inside the posts.

james-mccormick-makes-a-pass Ireland's James McCormick makes a pass. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Another French penalty soon followed, this time out-half Louis Foursans-Bourdette seeing his strike rebound of the post.

Ireland’s effort in defence was paying off, and as the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes of play it was still just a six-point game.

France were also struggling to keep their discipline under control, and having conceded a string penalties around the maul, a yellow card was finally produced and the home side would have to see out the game with 14 men as Samuel Mezaache headed to the bin.

It left Ireland with a five-metre lineout to go and win the game. They gathered the throw and went through the phases, France holding them out before being pinged for another penalty. Ireland went again, McCormack breaking away from the maul but being held up short. Crothers then tried his luck, before Devine stepped in and spun an excellent pass out to Ben Brownlee who had the momentum to break the tackle and dot down.

Tector stepped up to win the game, slotting the pressure kick with the last action of the night to secure an excellent win.

At times it was ugly, but Ireland’s resilience and discipline eventually paid off as they left France was a hard-fought, fully deserved victory which leaves them three points clear at the top of the table. 

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France scorers:

Try: Montgaillard

Conversion: Auriac [1/1]

Penalties: Auriac [3/4], Le Brun [0/1]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: McCormick, Brownlee.

Conversions: Tector [2/2]

Penalty: Tector [1/1]

France U20s: Max Auriac; Jefferson Joseph, Emilien Gailleton, Louis Le Brun, Enzo Reybier; Louis Foursans-Bourdette (Ethan Randle, 74), Baptiste Jauneau; Matis Perchaud, Victor Montgaillard (Lucas Martin, 48), Robin Bellemand; Samuel M’foudi, Matthieu Uhila (Raphael Portat, 41); Leo Banos, Noe Della Schiava, Malohi Suta (Jules Coulon, 41). 

Yellow card: Samuel Mezaache 

Ireland U20s: Patrick Campbell; Aitzol King, Ben Brownlee, Daniel Hawkshaw, Shane Mallon (Dylan O’Grady, 69); Charlie Tector, Ethan Coughlan (Matthew Devine, 45); Jack Boyle, James McCormick, Rory McGuire (Darragh McSweeney, 64); Conor O’Tighearnaigh, Mark Morrissey (Adam McNamee, 69); James McNabney (Conor Moloney, 67), Reuben Crothers (captain), James Culhane. 

Referee: Hollie Davidson (SRU)

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella hit record for the second time in one day after news of Johnny Sexton’s injury, with Illtud Dafydd joining the lads on the line from Paris to give great insight into all things les Bleus.

About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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