Ireland 27 France 22: Not a performance to shout about, but Ireland’s U20s did just about enough to make it three wins from three in this year’s Six Nations at Donnybrook last night.
It was a far from perfect display by Nigel Carolan’s young troops, but three tries in the first-half and the ability to construct a 14-point lead with over half an hour to play proved to be the cushion needed as they soaked up considerable French pressure on a perfect evening for rugby.
France’s main threat was scrum-half Arthur Retiere and it was the nine’s breathtaking run from the halfway line, through four attempted tackles, and this after retreating to field a clearing Irish kick that established the platform for the opening French try approaching half-time.
Faraj Fartass was the chief beneficiary in touching down.
France failed to convert a tonne of possession and territory into anything tangible against an Irish side that lost a third captain to injury this season in Calvin Nash, this time after a clash of heads.
Very little went right for the hosts in that opening spell, but they managed enough in the first period to claim three tries through hooker Tadhg McElroy, Tommy O’Brien and Oisin Dowling.
McElroy’s owed everything to a block down of clearing kick on the French 22 by Alex McHenry, O’Brien touched down after collecting his own grubber off the back of an Irish scrum and Dowling’s was a tribute to quick thinking, as he dotted down as the French left a ball unprotected at a ruck over their end line.
Up 21-10 at the break, Ireland will have gathered their breath knowing they were capable of much more despite the lead and hopeful that out-half Bill Johnston, returning after an ankle injury for his first appearance of the campaign, could stitch together a more regular pattern.
That didn’t happen. Johnston landed his first penalty — and fourth successful kick — to extend the lead to 14 points after 47 minutes but the French again owned large tracts of possession and it told when Fartass crossed over for an unconverted second.
Then it got worse.
Within minutes replacement Sean Masterson was in the bin for an illegal pilfer at the ruck near the Irish line and France turned the screw with a succession of scrums against a weakened home pack before the English referee awarded the penalty try.
Another Johnston penalty extended the gap to five points and, with Masterson returning to the field, Ireland negotiated the fraught final minutes to claim another scalp.
R Lyttle (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster); J Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster), T O’Brien (UCD RFC/Leinster), C Frawley (UCD RFC/Leinster), C Nash (Young Munster/Munster); B Johnston (Garryowen/Munster), J Stewart (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster); J Conway (UL Bohemians/Munster), T McElroy (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), C Connolly (Dublin University/Leinster); J Regan (UCD RFC/Leinster), O Dowling (Lansdowne FC/Leinster); M Rea (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster), P Boyle (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), C Doris (St Mary’s College/Leinster).
A McHenry for Nash (2); C Fitzgerald for Frawley (7-12) and for McHenry (52); J Lyons for Lyttle (54-60); R Kelleher for McElroy and G Coombes for Rae (both 55); S Masterson for Dowling (62); P Cooper for Connolly (66).
R Buros; F Fartass, PL Barassi, T Dachary, W Iraghua; R N’Tamack, A Retiere; K Tougne, E Fourcade, T Laclayat; F Verhaeghe, M Capelli; D Cretin, J Ruaud, A Roumat.
L Aouf for Fourcade, F Dufour for Tougne, GH Colombe for Laclayat, C Woki for Ruaud (all half-time); T Millet for Barassi (63); B Couilloud for Retiere (64); A Fuertes for N’Tamack (75); K Geraci for Verhaeghe (78).
T Foley (RFU).
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