UNDER-21 SIX NATIONS: Friday, March 11Ireland U-21 13 France U-21 20, Thomond ParkScorers: Ireland U-21: Try: Paul McKenzie; Con: Gareth Steenson; Pens: Steenson 2France U-21: Tries: Mathieu Bourret, Benjamin Dambielle; Cons: Christophe Ruiz 2; Pens: Ruiz 2
Mark McDermott's men - showing three changes from their 28-6 defeat at the hands of England - ended up on the losing side for the third time in the Championship as Mathieu Bourret and Benjamin Dambielle ran in late tries.
The Irish had to wait until the 78th-minute to net their only touch down on a chilly night, as impressive Belfast Harlequins wing Paul McKenzie crossed.
Two penalties on 11 and 23 minutes from fit-again captain and lynchpin fly-half Gareth Steenson had set the Irish - losers to both Scotland and England in their last outings - up for a 6-0 half-time lead.
However, the visitors emerged with renewed heart in the second half. They had just ten minutes to wait until right winger Bourret slalomed over.
Christophe Ruiz converted for the lead and while adding penalties on 57 and 67 minutes, the Perpignan fly-half also tagged on the extras to full-back Dambielle's try with five minutes remaining.
McKenzie's effort proved scant consolation and Ireland - with a World Cup in Argentina ahead - must rally themselves quickly, as they travel to Neath in seven days time - with opponents Wales attempting a historic Grand Slam.
Manager David Haslett said afterwards: "We missed a number of opportunities for tries in the first half - maybe two or three - and it proved costly in the end."
"It was still our best performance of the year to date, and we'll be looking for another improvement against Wales next week," added the Ulsterman.
(15) Mark Kettyle (Belfast Harlequins) (14) Kieran Geraghty (London Irish) (13) Andrew Trimble (Ballymena)(12) Greg Stafford (Lansdowne)(11) Paul McKenzie (Belfast Harlequins)(10) Gareth Steenson (Dungannon) (Captain)(9) David O'Leary (UCC)(1) Michael Diffley (Buccaneers)(2) Joseph Merrigan (Corinthians)
Replacements used: Chris Henry (Malone) for Hennessy (13 mins), Mark Melbourne (Garryowen) for Stevenson (60), Paul Marshall (Ballynahinch) for O'Leary (80). Not used: Eamonn Bracken (Buccaneers), Robert Quinn (UCC), Barry Keeshan (Cork Constitution), Denis Hurley (UCC).
France U-21: Bejamin Dambielle; Mathieu Bourret, Vincent Roux, Sylvain Mirande, Florian Denos; Christophe Ruiz, Mickael Campeggia; Pierre Lafond, Fridiric Montagnat, Alexandre Bastin, Denys Drozdz, Looc Jacquet, Girald Gambetta (Capt), Fabien Alexandre, Aurilien Diotallevi.Replacements used: Yohan Months for Diotallevi (28 mins), Benjamin Kayser for Montagnat (51), Damien Fhvre for Drozdz, Thibault Lacroix for Roux (both 68), Damien Chouly for Campeggia, Fabien Cibray for Jacquet (both 78). Not used: Adrien Figueiredo.
HT: Ireland U-21 6 France U-21 0Referee: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)Touch judges: Maurizio Vancini, Stefano Penne (both Italy)
Ireland Coach: Mark McDermottAssistant Coach: Brian WalshManager: David Haslett
Ireland Under-21s' Six Nations results:
Italy U-21 21 Ireland U-21 33, UdineScotland U-21 16 Ireland U-21 8, Falkirk Community StadiumIreland U-21 6 England U-21 28, Donnybrook
Friday night results:
England U-21 31 Italy U-21 14, NorthamptonScotland U-21 7 Wales U-21 31, Aberdeen
Fixture to come:
Friday, March 18: Wales U-21 v Ireland U-21, Rodney Parade, Newport (7.00pm)