Comeback not enough for spirited Ireland Women in France

France Women 8 Ireland Women 7

France Women 8 Ireland Women 7

The Ireland Women's team went down to a heartbreaking defeat to France in their Six Nations match after a spirited comeback bid came up short in Pau.

The girls in green dominated the second half but Claire Molloy's try in the final minute was not enough to inspire them to a first win on French soil.

After Ireland's game against Wales was abandoned at half-time last weekend, Irish preparations were further upset by the weather as this match was brought forward to an afternoon kick-off.

But despite the time change and the sub-zero temperatures, 9,000 spectators packed into the Stade du Hameau to watch what proved a hugely entertaining contest in the south west of France.

The freezing conditions made life difficult for the players and Ireland met a well-organised, physical and aggressive French side.

Playing into a light wind in the first half, Philip Doyle's team fell behind to a 20th minute try from winger Caroline Ladagnous which the French failed to convert.

It was proving a hugely physical game, with Marjorie Mayans, a former back rower playing in the centre, making herself known to Niamh Briggs and Grace Davitt.

The visitors were seeing plenty of ball but the French stretched further ahead with a penalty from the experienced Sandrine Agricole, and Ireland had to withstand some late pressure as half-time approached.

Trailing 8-0 at the break, Ireland nearly got off to the perfect start when winger Niamh Kavanagh cut through the French defensive line but the home side were relieved to be awarded a penalty for obstruction.

Scrum half Amy Davis did her best to plot a course through the home defence but whenever the Irish found themselves within the opposition 22, they frustratingly could not find a way through.

But Ireland's hopes were given a lift when French tighthead prop Cristelle Chobet was shown a yellow card with 12 minutes left.

And the visitors finally made their pressure count when the hard-working Molloy burst through for a thoroughly deserved Irish try. Briggs converted but despite a frenetic end Ireland could not find the winning score.

Speaking after the game, Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan said: "We had most of the possession but we fell asleep for 20 minutes and that's when they capitalised and scored their try. Then it was just too little, too late really.

"There was a huge home support but after half-time it was all us. In fairness, credit to France and their defence but it was all us.

"We had a few bad decisions and a few unforced errors but hats off to the girls for the way they came back.

"We were trying to force a penalty at the end. We thought we had one under the posts but the referee played on. We tried to keep the ball in hand to try and get either a score or a penalty out of it but unfortunately it didn't go our way."

FRANCE WOMEN: Jessy Tremouliere (Romagnat); Laura Delas (Lons), Marjorie Mayans (St Orens), Sandrine Agricole (Rennes), Caroline Ladagnous (Lons); Aurélie Bailon (USAP), Marie Alice Yahe (USAP) (capt); Hélène Ezanno (Rennes), Laetitia Salles (USAP), Christelle Chobet (Lons), Sandra Rabier (Caen), Cyrielle Bouisset (USAP), Claire Canal (USAP), Marie Charlotte Hebel (Rennes), Aïda Ba (Bobigny).

Replacements: Gaëlle Mignot (Montpellier), Emeline Dupont (Lille), Elodie Mert (Bobigny), Manon Andre (St Orens), Chloé Pelle (Lille), Laura Di Muzio (Lille), Jennyfer Troncy (Montpellier).

IRELAND WOMEN: Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Highfield/Connacht); Lynne Cantwell (Exile), Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Exile), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Exile), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).

Replacements: Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary's/Leinster), Ruth O'Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Heather O'Brien (Highfield/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Exile/UWIC/Ulster), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jennifer Murphy (Exile).

Referee: Sherry Trumbull (Canada)

Scorers: France: Try: Caroline Ladagnous; Pen: Sandrine Agricole

Ireland: Try: Claire Molloy; Con: Niamh Briggs

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