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Ireland U-19s Can Take Positives From Narrow Defeat

Ireland U-19s Can Take Positives From Narrow Defeat

The Ireland Under-19s, sponsored by PwC, were denied their second successive victory over France at Templeville Road this afternoon when full-back Valentin Saurs struck for a late match-winning try for the visitors.



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The young Ireland squad had impressed during their 31-20 triumph over France at St. Mary's College RFC last Thursday.

For their second encounter with France in the space of five days, head coach Colin McEntee opted for wholesale changes to his starting line-up.

Jack Owens of Campbell College was the only surviving player from the first game, and he switched from the left wing into the centre alongside Clongowes' Fergal Cleary.

The French side, on the other hand, had a much more settled look about it and although their management made a number of positional switches, they kept faith with ten of Thursday's starting team.

In theory, this should have given the visitors an advantage over inexperienced ireland who were captained on this occasion by Owens' Ulster compatriot Ross Todd.

Much of the early action took place in the middle of the pitch with a series of scrums and lineouts restricting the attacking potential of both teams.

But, by and large, a much-changed Ireland were maintaining the keen competitive edge that characterised last week's performance.

They were in French territory for much of the opening quarter and although the visitors' defence initially remained untroubled, Ireland did eventually make more of an impact with ball in hand.

A kick through by Owens almost yielded a try 16 minutes in, before out-half Josh Bingham had an opportunity to open the scoring from a 35-metre penalty nine minutes later.

The Methody student's effort from a left hand angle drifted past the near post, however, and this released the pressure on the French.

A terrific break by Cian O'Donoghue on the half hour created an opening for fellow winger Greg O'Shea on the left flank, but he knocked the ball on, under pressure from a tackle, just shy of the French line.

This looked like being the last meaningful passage of the first half until France pounced for the breakthrough score in injury-time.

A strong drive on the left was finished off superbly by scrum half Charlie Cassang. His half-back partner Lucas Meret brilliantly converted from the touchline to give France an unexpected 7-0 interval lead.

This was a real setback for Ireland after a positive display in the opening 35 minutes, but with France once again opting to utilise their reserves, there was every chance that the hosts could force their way back into the reckoning.

It did take a while for the second half to kick into life, but 12 minutes after the restart Ireland finally broke France's stern resistance.

Instonians scrum half Connor Young released the ball from a maul towards the line and after the French defence almost cut out the pass out wide, O'Donoghue was on hand to cross over unopposed.

Bingham missed his second kick at goal, but there was now a sense that Ireland could turn the tide in their favour.

By the time Ireland's next score arrived on 58 minutes, seven players had been introduced from the bench which helped to bring a freshness to their play.

One of these players, Cork Constitution's Tomás Quinlan, landed a magnificent long range penalty as Ireland took a slender 8-7 cushion heading into the closing stages.

For much of the final quarter, back-to-back wins appeared to be on the cards for McEntee's charges.

However, with the final whistle approaching, France made a major push for the five-pointer that would give them the decisive edge.

Ireland were holding firm under enormous pressure until Anthony Meric released the ball to full-back Saurs who managed to dive over for the game's decisive score.

Meret's conversion attempt went the wrong side of the posts and although Ireland had a final foray in the French half, they were unable to respond as the visitors took the spoils on this occasion.

Referee: David Procter (England)