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Three quick-fire French tries keep Ireland from upsetting hosts in U20 World Championship opener
Noel McNamara’s men earned a bonus point in defeat, but must beat South Africa to remain in contention for the semi-finals.

France U20  26

Ireland U20  24

John Fallon reports from Stade Aime Giral

IRELAND SEEMED POISED for a shock opening night win in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Perpignan when they led by 12 points at half-time.

But France were a different side after the restart, wiping out the lead inside five minutes and surging 26-17 in front after 51 minutes.

Ireland dejected Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

However, a late try from Harry Byrne secured a losing bonus point for Noel McNamara’s men.

Ireland, with their injury problems continuing to mount, just did not have a response and will now need to beat South Africa next Sunday to stay in contention for a semi-final berth.

Ireland, already without several injured players, were forced into a late change when loosehead prop James French was injured in the warm-up, with Jordan Duggan coming in to start.

Ireland were on the back foot from the outset when a Harry Byrne clearance was charged down and France made them pay, running a resultant penalty for left winger Maxime Marty to score in the corner after five minutes.

Noel McNamara with Paul O'Connell Ryan Byrne / INPHO Noel McNamara and forwards coach Paul O'Connell. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

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 lost debutant winger Dan Hurley after 27 minutes but by then Ireland had hit the front.

They patiently built several phases and flanker Joe Dunleavy supplied the finish, with Byrne converting to make it 10-5 after 22 minutes.

France, with Marty always looking dangerous down the left, butchered a couple of try-scoring chances with Irish replacement winger Sean O’Brien doing enough to deny Marty a second 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 stepped up and increased their lead despite being down a man, again showing great patience in attack for multiple drives before scrum-half Hugh O’Sullivan spotted a gap and dived over in the final play of the opening half. Byrne added the extras to lead 17-5 at the break.

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Hugh O'Sullivan celebrates scoring their second try Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

However, it took France less than five minutes to wipe out that advantage after the restart with scrum-half Arthur Coville scoring and then Ntamack chased his own grubber to score and convert and 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 fullback Clement Laporte, with Ntamack converting from the touchline to make it 26-17.

France were made sweat to the end when Byrne got in for Ireland’s third try, but the visitors were unable to snatch it at the death.

Scorers for Ireland

Tries: Joe Dunleavy, Hugh O’Sullivan, Harry Byrne

Conversions: Harry Byrne [3 from 3]

Penalties: Harry Byrne [1 from 2]

Scorers for France

Tries: Maxime Marty (2), Artur Coville, Romain Ntamack

Conversions:Romain Ntamack [3 from 4]

Penalties: Romain Ntamack [0 from 1]

David Nucifora Ryan Byrne / INPHO David Nucifora watches on in Stade Aime Giral. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

France: Clement Laporte; Lucas Tauzin, Pierre LouIs Barassi, Adrien Seguret, Maxime Marty (Matthis Lebal 66); Romain Ntamack, Artur Coville (c) (Jules Gimbert 66); Hassane Kolingar (Jean Baptiste Gros 53), Maxime Lamothe (Guillame Marchand 50), Daniel Brennan (Demba Bamba h-t); Thomas Lavault, Killian Geraci (Pierre-Henri Azagoh 56); Sacha Zegueur (Jordan Joseph 33), Cameron Woki, Charlie Francoz.

Ireland: Michael Silvester (Leinster); Tom Roche (Leinster), Tommy O’Brien (Leinster), Peter Sylvester (Munster), Dan Hurley (Munster) (Sean O’Brien (Leinster) 28); Harry Byrne (Leinster) (Conor Dean (Leinster) 50-59 HIA), Hugh O’Sullivan (Leinster) (Jonny Stewart (Ulster) 68); James French (Munster), Diarmuid Barron (Munster) (Dan Sheehan (Leinster) 76), Jack Aungier (Leinster) (Joe Byrne (Leinster) 57); Matthew Dalton (Ulster) (Cormac Daly (Leinster) 50 HIA), Jack Dunne (Leinster); Joe Dunleavy (Ulster) (Aaron Hall (Ulster) 68), Matthew Agnew (Ulster) (Joe Byrne (Leinster) 37-46), Caelan Doris (Leinster).

Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU).

As it happened: Ireland v France, World Rugby U20 Championship

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