Two first half tries from Imanol Harinordoquy and Benjamin Kayser proved vital as a youthful Ireland 'A' side were beaten 20-12 by France 'A' in Limoges on Friday night.
'A' INTERNATIONAL: Friday, February 10
FRANCE 'A' 20 IRELAND 'A' 12, Limoges
Scoprers: France 'A': Tries: Imanol Harinordoquy, Benjamin Kayser; Cons: David Skrela 2; Pens: Skrela 2
Ireland 'A': Pens: Jeremy Staunton 4
The Ireland 'A' team's first outing of the season ended in defeat in chilly Limoges despite a strong performance from Michael Bradley's men.
The Irish put in a brave display, sticking to their hosts like glue despite the blue shirts' early dominance, and might have won it in the final quarter. Two gilt-edged changes slipped by as the Irish lost their own lineout throw 10 metres from the French line, and number 8 Jamie Heaslip was unfortunate to drop a ball with an overlap on the cards.
France 'A', 15-9 losers to the Irish in Donnybrook last year, struck two crucial blows on 15 and 37 minutes when number 8 Harinordoquy and hooker Kayser both crossed the visitors' line.
A loss of form for Biarritz bruiser Harinordoquy has seen him out of the loop of Bernard Laporte's Les Bleus for close on a year. Indeed, the 25-year-old has not started a Test match since the 45-6 thumping meted out to France by the All Blacks in November 2004.
Perhaps mindful of this, Harinordoquy put in an eye-catching performance at Stade Beaublanc before being forced off through injury at the break. Ireland's back row prodigal trio of Neil Best, Shane Jennings and Heaslip never shirked a challenge and can be proud of their combined efforts.
After Stade Francais fly half David Skrela had booted an early penalty, France 'A' went through the phases to send Harinordoquy over from five metres out.
Skrela's conversion was cancelled out by a Jeremy Staunton penalty, and the Irish pack, led by lock and captain Mick O'Driscoll, then went close - on two occasions - to breaking their side's try deadlock.
Wasps fly half Staunton added a second penalty, but the hosts went 17-6 up just before the break. Kayser's try had a bit of good fortune about it - full-back Benjamin Thiery's clearance kick looked to have bounced out on the full, but the Irish were forced to defend a lineout in their own 22. They lost the throw, the ball was recycled and Kayser ploughed over.
The second half was little more than a penalty duel - Staunton edged it, kicking a brace to a single effort from Skrela, and while both sides had spells of dominance, a stalemate ensued.
TIME LINE: 9 minutes - France 'A': penalty - David Skrela - 3-0; 15 minutes - France 'A': try - Imanol Harinordoquy - 8-0; conversion - David Skrela - 10-0; 18 minutes - Ireland 'A': penalty - Jeremy Staunton - 10-3; 28 minutes - Ireland 'A': penalty - Jeremy Staunton - 10-6; 37 minutes - France 'A': try - Benjamin Kayser - 15-6; conversion - David Skrela - 17-6; Half-time - France 'A' 17 Ireland 'A' 6; 51 minutes - Ireland 'A': penalty - Jeremy Staunton - 17-9; 58 minutes - France 'A': penalty - David Skrela - 20-9; 66 minutes - Ireland 'A': penalty - Jeremy Staunton - 20-12; Full-time - France 'A' 20 Ireland 'A' 12
FRANCE 'A': Benjamin Thiery; Vincent Clerc, Guillaume Bousses, Philippe Bidabe, Jean-Baptiste Gobelet; David Skrela, Nicolas Durand (capt); Jean Baptiste Poux, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas, Gregory Lamboley, Arnaud Marchois, Thierry Dusautoir, Gregory Le Corvec, Imanol Harinordoquy.
Replacements used: Julien Peyrelongue for Poux, Vincent Debaty for Kayzer, Benoit Cabello for Dusautoir (all 56 mins), Alexandre Albouy for Durand (70), Geoffroy Messina for Skrela (76). Not used: Cedric Berges, Florian Faure.
IRELAND 'A': Gavin Duffy; John Hearty, Barry Murphy, Kieran Lewis, Conor McPhillips; Jeremy Staunton, Tomas O'Leary; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Bryan Young, Mick O'Driscoll (capt), Matt McCullough, Neil Best, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Brian Blaney for Fogarty (37 mins), Ronan McCormack for Hogan (47), Chris Keane for O'Leary (59), Paddy Wallace for Staunton (68), Leo Cullen for McCullough (70), Bryn Cunningham for Murphy (72), Roger Wilson for Heaslip (73).
Referee: Giulio Di Santis (Italy)
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