France were left to reflect on the “feeling of defeat” after ending their Six Nations Grand Slam hopes yesterday, according to manager Philippe Saint-Andre.
Les Bleus gave away two tries in the first half and trailed 17-6 at half-time before mounting a fightback.
“There was a feeling of defeat, not that of a draw in the dressing room,” Saint Andre said after the game.
Currently second in the standings behind Wales, the only team that can still win a Grand Slam after winning three out of three, the players and management agreed gifting Ireland two tries left them in a tough position.
Clermont Auvergne centre Aurelien Rougerie’s misplaced his pass in the first half for Tommy Bowe’s first try but he congratulated the Monaghan winger for taking his chance and was impressed with the way Ireland took them on.
“Tommy Bowe tried his luck well and he does that well for his club too,” he said.
“It was unfortunate for me but that’s the way it is. In the first half I don’t think we were particularly nervous. We wanted to try and play our game and try to disrupt the Irish defence, which was very solid at the breakdowns and rushed to contact well with their backrow.
“We really wanted to take the game to them but the two stupid tries we gave away really hurt us.”
Clement Poitrenaud, who made some daring runs from deep, was also complimentary of the way Ireland approached the game.
“Ireland are a very good team,” he said. “They’re very well organised and they’ve played together for a very tong time. France are rebuilding under new management and we’ve only been working together a short time.
“We were better defensively than we were against Scotland apart from those two tries on the counter-attack.”
However captain Thierry Dusautoir felt France should have won a game they dominated, at least in terms of possession.
“The win was within our grasp,” he admitted, “but when you give away so many points you just get what you deserve.
Saint-Andre added: “When you give away 10 points, it’s really hard to win the match against Ireland, who defended very well and bothered us with their umbrella defence.”
The former France winger, however, was proud of his players, saying they showed great character to come back into the game.
“At 17-6 I asked the players to be more direct because it had started to rain and it was a bit like Irish weather out there,” he said.
“We had ambitions, a desire to go forward, but at the highest level, you have to be much more precise.”
However scrum-half Morgan Parra was annoyed his side’s chance of facing Wales for a Grand Slam was now gone. The diminutive number nine believed his side were brave with the ball in hand but couldn’t breach the Irish defence when they needed to most.
“We were ambitious in our own 40 metres but it didn’t pay off,” he said.
“The goal of the whole squad was to go and play a final for the Grand Slam in Wales. It hurts. We were never really especially in danger.”
Number eight Imanol Harinordoquy called on his troops to focus on winning the championship from now on.
“We’re definitely disappointed and we’re not satisfied with a draw. We can still win the tournament though.
“The Grand Slam isn’t possible anymore but I think there’ll be fewer and fewer Grand Slams anyway.
“Winning the tournament is great too and that’s still possible.”
He was proud of the way his team-mates clawed their way back into contention. “We did everything we could to get back into the match, with a lot of energy. When we pressed them we won a lot of penalties towards the end of the first half and we cut into their lead.
“The try we conceded before half-time did us a lot of damage. And if you find yourself behind against Ireland you have to work really hard to get back into it. We never gave up and we gave everything in the second half.”
However he also believed his team would not have given up the lead Ireland had.
“I think it’s certain that if we had scored the points at the start of the game instead of Ireland we would have felt liberated and we would have been more adventurous. But it’s like the result — you can look at it as the glass half-full or glass half-empty.
“We’re very disappointed. The Irish will be too but a little less than us I’d say. The way the end of the match went, the Irish will be satisfied. We pressed hard. We got it back to 17 all with 10 minutes left and I think for those 10 minutes we kept the ball. So not having found a way to win the game is disappointing.”
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