Instead it was French second row Florian Verhaegue who touched down twice for the hosts, his third try in a week, which added to the earlier effort from Gabriel N’Gandebe and their penalty try.
French out-half Anthony Belleau played a starring role as well, and the Toulon clubman kicked six from seven off the tee.
Ireland trailed 17-13 at the break but it didn’t give a true reflection of the play in the first half. The Irish maul dominated their opposition and that was the source of both of their tries.
Out-half Johnny McPhillips kicked them ahead after seven minutes when France went off their feet, but France got back level after the first quarter.
Ireland still had much of the possession, and made numerous visits to the opposing 22. On one such foray just before the half-hour Claffey dotted down their first try.
Ireland forced a penalty and when McPhillips kicked to the corner, the pack did the rest. James Ryan came up just short but the ball was recycled for the Galwegians clubman to get the score.
McPhillips missed the conversion and France almost made them pay within two minutes — Judicaël Cancoriet broke for the line and was hauled down. When N’Gandebe latched onto his offload, he looked certain to score only for a tremendous last-ditch tackle from captain Ryan.
But from the subsequent scrum, Ireland were forced to drag France down, as they got the shove on, and Belleau’s simple conversion put them 10-8 up.
Straight from the kick-off Ireland won a penalty. Again McPhillips went to the corner and it was carbon-copy of Ireland’s first effort. But this time Ryan got the try his hard work deserved.
However McPhillips missed his second kick of the evening, and France had one more reply before the break. Wing N’Gandebe touched down in the corner after the Ireland defence got stretched and France led at half-time.
Ireland took far too long to get going after half-time and after Belleau put France ahead with a penalty, they had the momentum they needed.
France hammered Italy 40-3 last weekend, and they showed why, as Verhaegue tries followed in the 56th and 63rd minutes. And Ireland’s discipline failed them as the game wore on with the French bench taking control.
Tries: F Verhaegue (2), G N’Gandebe, Penalty try. Conversions: A Belleau (4). Penalty: A Belleau (2).
Tries: P Claffey, J Ryan. Conversion: J McPhillips. Penalty: J McPhillips.
R Buros; G N’Gandebe, D Penaud, A Arrate, E Roudil; A Belleau, C Kaiser; C Castets, P Mauvaka, M Simutoga; F Verhaegue, M Tanguy; M Voisin, J Cancoriet, A Jelonch.
E El Ansari for Castets (52 mins), E Setiano forSimutoga (52), B Couilloud for Kaiser (52), JB Grenod for Voisin (59), P Bourgarit for Mauvaka (60), A Septar for Arrate (60), T Hannoyer for Tanguy (71), A Pilati for Penaud (71).
H Keenan; M Byrne, S Daly, J O’Brien, C O’Brien; J McPhillips, J Poland; A Porter, A McBurney, C Kenny; P Claffey, J Ryan; C Gallagher, D Walsh, M Deegan.
T Kennedy for Daly (46 mins), K Brown for Deegan (47), C O’Donnell for Kenny (51), S O’Connor for Walsh (57), S Fenton for McBurney (61), S Kerins for Poland (66), B Connon for McPhillips (66), J Bollard for Porter (72).
Craig Maxwell-Keys (England).