Ireland go down fighting

France 19 Ireland 15
Ireland’s hopes of retaining the Six Nations title were dashed in Pau last night as France were crowned Grand Slam champions.

Philip Doyle’s side came close to denying the French on home soil for the first time in their history thanks to a feisty second-half performance, but in the end, the 2014 World Cup hosts had too much in the tank.

France were the favourites going into the tie, given they had not conceded a try in their previous four games, but two pushover tries by Munster’s Gillian Bourke on the 58th and 70th minutes tainted their clean sheet.

It had been a fierce battle throughout, and despite containing France in the opening minutes, with good work by Lynne Cantwell and Claire Molloy, winger Marion Lievre went over in the fourth minute to put Les Bleus in front 5-0 at half-time.

Philip Doyle’s side did well to keep a hugely physical France outfit at bay for the remainder of the opening half, but Ireland never really threatened in attack.

Upon the restart, they were dealt a massive blow when prop Elodie Portaries crashed over from close range, and with Sandrine Agricole’s conversion, France led 12-0 with 42 minutes played.

A Niamh Briggs penalty reduced the gap to nine, but no sooner had Ireland established a foothold than they were punished, when Shanon Izar cut inside and went under the posts after a fine pass from Agricole, who added the conversion (19-3).

It was then the Ireland we knew began to play, with some super breaks by Alison Miller and Heather O’Brien upping the defensive display, and Ireland gave France a late scare when Bourke scored two tries off rolling mauls.

However, it wasn’t to be, and in front of a large home crowd, France won their fourth ever Grand Slam title.

It was always a tall order for Ireland, who had to win by 20 points or more, and then sweat it out on the England and Italy clash on Sunday, but none-the-less it was a brave effort at defending their 2013 championship title.

Ireland will now take a break before regrouping in June in preparation for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, in Paris this August.

Scorers for Ireland: G Bourke (Tries, 58, 70), N Briggs (pen, 48; conversion, 71).

France: M Lievre (try, 4), E Portaries (try, 42), S Izar (try, 52), S Agricole (con, 42, 53).

IRELAND: N Briggs, A Baxter, L Cantwell, J Murphy, A Miller, N Stapleton, L Muldoon, F Coughlan, G Bourke, A Egan, S Spence, ML Reilly, S Fleming, C Molloy, H O’Brien.

Replacements: Fitzpatrick for Fleming (60), Kennedy for Egan (62), Davitt for Murphy (64), Casey for Baxter (71).

FRANCE: C LeDuff, M Lièvre, S Izar, E Poublan, C Grassineau, S Agricole, J Troncy, H Ezanno, G Mignot, E Portaries, S Rabier, A Koita, K Djoussouvi, C Tombe Diallo, S N’Diaye.

Replacements: Arricastre for Ezanno (48), Salles for Mignot (53), Tremouliere for Le Duff (54), Duval for Portaries, Puoblan for Izar (both 58), Grand for Djossouvi (60), Rabier for Koita (69).

Referee: L Berard (USA).

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