UNDER-21 6 NATIONS: Friday, February 10
FRANCE U-21 29 IRELAND U-21 10, Strasbourg
Scorers: Ireland U-21: Try: Penalty try; Con: Jonathan Sexton; Pen: Sexton
With UCC prop Darragh Hurley in the sin-bin, the Irish conceded three tries either side of the break to see their hopes take a nose dive at the Centre Sportif de Hautepierre.
Mark McDermott's side travelled south on the back of an encouraging 34-9 home win against Italy, and they held their own in the first quarter against their heavily-touted hosts.
Lansdowne lock Devin Toner, standing at 6ft 10in, was a constant target for Irish captain Stuart Philpott in the lineout, and St. Mary's Jonathan Sexton offered an influential presence at fly half.
Sexton sent the 18-year-old centre Darren Cave haring through a gap after 16 minutes, only for the Belfast Harlequins flyer to be hauled down short of the home line. Crucially, for all their early dominance, the Irish made no in-roads on the scoreboard. Sexton missed attempts at an opening penalty and drop goal, and had to watch helplessly as French prop Yohan Montes was driven over after a lineout maul on 20 minutes.
Lionel Beauxis converted and added a penalty before Sexton opened his account with a 32nd-minute penalty. Three minutes later, Hurley felt the wrath of Welsh referee Neil Ballard when he was sin-binned for slowing up ruck ball.
Tries from winger Gregory Puyo and lock Loic Jacquet followed for France before the break as they began to find their link men.
Les Bleus added a fourth try to their 22-3 half-time buffer through centre Maxime Mermoz, just 11 seconds into the second half.
The Irish garnered a penalty try with the French guilty of a spate of infringements close to their line on 50 minutes. Sexton converted to pare the gap down to 29-10.
France then lost Jacquet to a yellow card, but their lead went untroubled in the final quarter.
FRANCE U-21: Maxime Medard; Yann Fior, Thibault Lacroix, Maxime Mermoz, Gregory Puyo; Lionel Beauxis, Fabien Cibray (capt); Florian Cazalot, Laurent Sempere, Yohan Montes, Julien Ledevedec, Loic Jacquet, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Nicolas Bontinck, Fabien Alexandre.
Replacements: Arnaud Heguy, Laurent Cabarry, Carpentier, Steve Malonga, Damien Neveu, Thomas Anies, Julien Jeuvray.
IRELAND U-21: Fionn Carr; Peter Durcan, Darren Cave, Conan Doyle, Matthew Williams; Jonathan Sexton, Paul Marshall; Darragh Hurley, Stuart Philpott (capt), Paul Doran-Jones, Daniel Tuohy, Devin Toner, Ross Noonan, Ejike Uzoigwe, Billy Holland.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Callum Black, David McGowan, Sean O'Brien, Duncan Williams, Tom Gleeson, Fergus McFadden.
Referee: Neil Ballard (Wales)