A terrific team performance saw the Ireland Under-18 Clubs side begin this week’s International Triangular Festival with a deserved 18-10 victory over France this afternoon.
With a very strong wind affecting today's encounter at Hartpury College, it was obvious that it had the potential to be a game of two halves and so it proved. Wind-backed Ireland gained crucial early ground with all 18 of their points scored in the opening 20 minutes.
Skerries clubman Ciaran Frawley settled the nerves with a third minute penalty from in front of the posts, awarded for a French infringement at the breakdown.
France, whose players were picked from their regional academies, were quick to respond and following some decent pressure, their outside centre broke the Irish defensive line and scored under the posts with the conversion making it 7-3.
Wayne Mitchell's youngsters soon seized the initiative and attacked using their strong maul, reliable lineout and a scrum that grew in dominance throughout the game. Ireland's scrum put continuous pressure on the French, with Jack Aungier, Tadgh McElroy and Greg McGrath combining to very good effect in the front row.
Birr second row Jack Regan commanded the receipt of restarts throughout the first half and with the support of his pack, kept driving back at the French and providing an effective platform for the Irish backs to attack.
Following a period of sustained pressure and a number of phases, Gorey's Paul Boyle broke through to score a 13th minute try which was duly converted by Luke Carty.
Ireland continued to drive forward when play resumed and with France infringing at the breakdown again just three minutes later, Buccaneers clubman Carty split the posts for a 13-7 scoreline. The wind continued to influence proceedings and it aided Ireland, the attacking team, approaching half-time.
Ireland's well-drilled lineout maul gave them the perfect platform from which to strike for try number two. From the back of one such drive, captain Conor Farrell took the ball on and burst through the defence to go over in the corner. The Navan flanker's unconverted score made it 18-7 at the break.
The second half was a battle in defence for Ireland. To a man, Farrell and his team-mates defended furiously, held their nerve and communicated brilliantly to defend for 35 energy-sapping minutes.
The highlight of this superb Irish defensive effort was that despite being pinned back in their own half, only one penalty was conceded which resulted in France converting and closing the gap to 18-10, five minutes in.
Ireland's scrum and lineout continued to perform well, they kept up their fast line speed and their chop tackles were key in avoiding the concession of a second try. With the French getting more frustrated with their inability to break down the line, they gave away more penalties which gave Ireland some much-needed relief and they deservedly held on for an eight-point win.
The International Triangular Festival finishes on Easter Saturday when Ireland take on England U-18 Counties, who beat France 7-5 in the opening fixture, at Hartpury College (kick-off 11am).