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France Fédérale Prove Too Strong For Ireland Club Team

France Fédérale Prove Too Strong For Ireland Club Team

Despite scoring tries in the opening minutes of both halves, the Ireland Club team fell to a 37-12 defeat to their French counterparts in tonight’s historic Ulster Bank Club International at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland, who lost 23-18 to Scotland last week, started the game brilliantly with some nice inter-changes between the backs. The reward came on eight minutes when Daniel Riordan fired a penalty down the line instead of opting for a shot at goal. From the lineout, flanker Paul Pritchard gathered and mauled his way over from 10 metres out. Darragh Lyons pulled his conversion wide.

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The danger signs were there for Paul Cunningham's men, though, as they were quickly pinned back in their own half. Firstly, France lock Benoit Senac got a superb delayed pass away when he went to ground, linking with Thomas Anies who found Kevin Burgaud on his shoulder before a brilliant tackle by scrum half Angus Lloyd prevented him from scoring.

Then, Senac's second row partner Anthony Potente was held short of the line. However, the French, whose amateur club players are drawn from the Fédérale league, managed to hit the front soon after.

A 40-metre penalty effort from out-half Julien Lavie dropped short but with the ball being carried over the line, the visitors had a five-metre scrum. Lavie's half-back partner Paul Dubert moved the ball right off the back of the set piece and full-back Lucas Levy was fed to go over on the quarter hour mark.

Lavie converted and added a 21st minute penalty for a 10-5 lead, before Ireland went close to scoring again before Lansdowne's Mark Roche was bundled into touch.

Disaster struck when Dublin University clubman Lloyd ruined some excellent individual work. Initially, he ran a French clearance back, brilliantly slicing through the defence, leaving four players for dead, but unfortunately for the hosts, his subsequent pass was intercepted by Stéphane Bonvalot who sprinted away from halfway.

Lavie converted the winger's try and the big-booted Levy added a penalty from 50 metres out to give the France Fédérale side a 20-5 interval advantage in the teams' first ever meeting at this level.

The second period started as the first, with a well-taken Irish try. Fresh legs were brought on in the form of Eddie Rossiter, Adam Boland and Peter O'Shea up front, while Gerry Hurley, last year's successful Ireland Club XV captain, replaced Lloyd at scrum half.

Jonathan Slattery gathered possession and a maul saw the Irish pack inch close to the line, before the backs took over and speedy centre Roche ran over unopposed a minute later. Lyons' conversion reduced the arrears to 20-12.

Still, there seemed to be no stopping France or the kicking masterclass provided by Lavie as his well-struck penalty punished the sin-binning of Ballymena back rower Stephen Mullholland on 58 minutes.

They capitalised again as French captain Julien Capdeillayre scampered over for a seven-pointer and despite the return of Mullholland and a yellow card from French replacement Jean-Baptiste Lafite, the visitors killed the game off as Guillaume Geledan was gifted another converted try with eight minutes remaining.

It was not to be for the Matt D'Arcy-led Ireland Club side, who can be very proud of their efforts at the home of Irish rugby, as the game ended to the sound of the French national anthem, 'La Marseillaise'.

Giving his reaction afterwards, Irish head coach Paul Cunningham said: “It was a tough physical game and it was obviously going to be the case. If we hadn't coughed up the 14 points (two converted tries) in the first half, it is anybody's game.

“We were eight points down around 10 minutes into the second half and again we coughed up two quick ones. We coughed up two tries in terms of the interception and a basic error and that made life hard for us. The lads have given everything they had and showed a lot of ability out there, but we made it difficult for ourselves.”

Referee: Eddie Hogan O'Connell (IRFU)