Having trailed 8-0 at the break, the visitors stormed back on the resumption with a try from Claire Molloy which was converted by Niamh Briggs.
But time ran out on Philip Doyle’s side as they went in search of the score required to secure their first win on French soil.
Devastated Ireland skipper Fiona Coghlan said: “We had most of the possession but we fell asleep for 20 minutes (in the first half) and that’s when they capitalised and scored their try. Then it was just too little, too late really.”
A 20th minute try from winger Caroline Ladagnous and a Sandrine Agricole penalty had the French in command at the break. But Ireland raced from the blocks on the restart, with Niamh Kavanagh leading the charge.
The French were reduced to 14 when tight head prop Cristelle Chobet was sinbinned with 12 minutes remaining, and the visitors made their pressure count when Molloy burst through for a try. Briggs added the extras but as the clock ticked down, Ireland could not produce the winning score.
IRELAND: A Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), N Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), N Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), G Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), A Miller (Portlaoise/Highfield/Connacht), L Cantwell (Exile), A Davis (Blackrock/Leinster), F Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster, captain), G Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), M Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Spence (Exiles), L Guest (Highfield/Munster), C Molloy (Bristol/Exile), J Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: P Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), R O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), S Fleming (Tralee/Munster), H O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), L Muldoon (Exile/UWIC/Ulster), N Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), J Murphy (Exiles) Referee: S Trumbull (Canada).