After Michael Kelleher had given the home side a dramatic three-point lead, brilliant French attacking play saw Remo Lamerat canter over — but only after a blatant knock-on prior to Lamerat’s try was ignored by Welsh referee David Bodilly.
A physically stronger France led 8-0 after 13 minutes through a Romain Barthelemy penalty and a brilliantly-worked Jermey Gondrand try.
Luke Marshall struck a sweet 24th-minute penalty for the Irish, who enjoyed limited possession in the first period, but fought doggedly for every ball, particularly No 8 David O’Callaghan.
France spurned good chances to be clear at the break, as a gutsy Ireland hung on to trail just 8-3.
Peter Melia’s side upped the tempo after the interval, their pressure forcing the French to commit a litany of errors.
Marshall landed an early penalty before Ireland notched their only try in the 61st minute. When Marshall saw his penalty strike the post, the rebound was gathered by the alert Patrick Butler, who found second row colleague Brian Hayes before the CBC student’s marvellous cut-out pass put Michael Kelleher through in the corner. Marshall just missed the conversion.
But in the 63rd minute, France full back Benoit Sicart was allowed sprint unhindered down the touchline, and, after passing infield to Barthelemy, the centre knocked on before Lamerat gathered and ran over unattended.
Stunned Irish players looked on thinking the play would be called back for a scrum. However it proved the decisive score.
G Nugent (PBC Cork); S Zebo (PBC, Cork), N Spence (Wallace High School), M Kelleher (St Munchin’s College), D McCarthy (Castletroy College); L Marshall (Ballymena Academy), D O’Driscoll (PBC Cork); J O’Connell (Clongowes Wood College), N Annett (Methodist College), D Buckley (Blackrock College); B Hayes (CBC Cork), P Butler (Rockwell College), G Burke (St Munchin’s),B O’Hara (PBC Cork) (capt), D O’Callaghan (Midleton College).
B Cagney (PBC Cork) for Buckley (70); D McSharry (Templeogue College) for Zebo (70+1); B Nagle (Belfast RA) for Burke (70+3).
B Sicart (Beziers); C Lagain (Bayonne), R Lamerat (Toulouse), R Barthelemy (Hyeres), J Sinzelle (Hyeres); J Gondrand (Villefranche), A Bales (Bordeaux); R Boussetta (Beziers), M Ivaldi (Hyeres), G Lamache (Hyeres); C Veeckman (Ussel) R Taofifenua (Ussel); K Gourdon (Hyeres), T Molcard (Beziers), B Petre (Dijon). Replacements all used: V Paquet, X Chiocci, M Giudicelli, A Revol, A Roulin, G Bosch, C Canivet.
D Bodilly (Wales).