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Ireland U-20s Sign Off From Cardiff With Battling Performance
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Ireland U-20s Sign Off From Cardiff With Battling Performance

Ireland U-20s Sign Off From Cardiff With Battling Performance

Ireland Under-20 tighthead Sam Illo leads the charges against France at Cardiff Arms Park ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Four-try France just had too much firepower in the end as the Ireland Under-20s (sponsored by PwC) went down 34-28 in their final U-20 Six Nations game in sunny Cardiff.

Match Photo Gallery: Ireland Under-20s 28 France Under-20s 34

Captain Alex Kendellen was in inspirational form again, weighing in with two tries – his second coming in the final minute – to add to a Jamie Osborne score and 13 points from Nathan Doak’s reliable right boot.

Despite number 8 Kylian Tixeront’s second-minute sin-binning, France built a 24-20 half-time lead courtesy of tries from player-of-the-match Thibault Debaes, Pierre Bochaton and Paul Mallez.

A Doak penalty cut the gap to a single point, but Louis Bielle Biarrey’s 65th-minute try from influential skipper Nolann Le Garrec’s cross-field kick – plus a subsequent Le Garrec penalty – gave les Bleuets enough of a buffer.

It means a third place finish for Richie Murphy’s resilient side, behind the French and Grand Slam champions England. Undoubtedly the future looks bright for this Irish crop, with a number of players standing out across the tournament.

Tixeront failed to wrap in an early tackle, earning a yellow for landing a shoulder to Conor McKee’s head. France responded well, skilful scrum half le Garrec landing a 31-metre penalty to make it 3-0.

However, Ireland’s attack soon clicked into gear in the 10th minute, Shane Jennings causing trouble in midfield before fellow winger Ben Moxham threatened out wide.

When play swung back infield, Leinster prospect Osborne impressively spun out of a couple of tackles to reach out and score. Doak converted and with their maul making good yards, Ireland remained on the front foot.

The French bounced back with a try out of nothing, McKee’s loose pass allowing Bielle Biarrey to break downfield. A diving Doak prevented the try initially, but quick ball sent out-half Debaes over. Le Garrec converted, leaving it 10-7.

The gap was briefly pushed out to 10 points after a well-worked move from a lineout saw flanker Bochaton driven over. The conversion, from out wide on the left, was well struck by Le Garrec.

Doak quickly replied with a penalty, and by the half hour mark, France’s lead was erased. Osborne’s chip over the top was gobbled up by Jennings who hurtled through for a gain of 60 metres.

The Irish pack then took over, big carries from Oisin McCormack, Kendellen and Sam Illo forcing the French right back on their line and Kendellen was eventually able to burrow over. Doak levelled with the simple conversion.

Frustratingly, Ireland handed back those seven points in the 35th minute. A costly penalty, conceded by Doak, gave the French enviable field position and some powerful carrying led to prop Mallez plunging over beside the posts.

Nonetheless, Murphy’s charges had a timely surge just before the break. Replacement George Saunderson did well to win a turnover penalty, and strong running by centres Jude Postlethwaite and Cathal Forde preceded Doak’s second penalty goal.

Ireland’s pinpoint place-kicker punished an offside, eight minutes into the second half, as his strike from 34 metres out made it a one-point game.

Le Garrec was narrowly wide with a penalty a few minutes later, yet the French half-backs were winning the kicking battle. Their intelligent game management pinned Ireland back.

Kendellen and company resisted, and workhorse second row Harry Sheridan also caught the eye with a lineout steal and then some great work to tidy up a French kick near halfway.

Into the final quarter, France seized their moment when Le Garrec took a penalty quickly in the Irish 22, arrowing the ball out to the right where he picked out winger Bielle Biarrey who got around Sheridan to touch down.

Le Garrec added the conversion to deepen the blow for a territory-starved Ireland. With France’s powerful bench producing a big scrum penalty, three more points from their captain gave them an 11-point cushion.

Knowing that two tries could get them right back in it, the Irish forwards continued to work their socks off. Tighthead Illo was just held up from a muscular carry, under the posts.

Although France won the resulting scrum against the head, Ireland kept fighting for every ball and were rewarded when number 8 Kendellen, who had tapped an initial penalty, squeezed over for his sixth try of the tournament.

The ever-alert Doak knew to take the conversion quickly, drop-kicking it wide as it left just enough time for a final restart.

Crucially though, Ireland were not able to get back into scoring range as France smothered a maul and forced a decisive turnover.

TIME LINE: 2 minutes – France yellow card: Kylian Tixeront; 9 mins – France penalty: Nolann Le Garrec – 0-3; 11 mins – Ireland try: Jamie Osborne – 5-3; conversion: Nathan Doak – 7-3; 18 mins – France try: Thibault Debaes – 7-8; conversion: Nolann Le Garrec – 7-10; 23 mins – France try: Pierre Bochaton – 7-15; conversion: Nolann Le Garrec – 7-17; 25 mins – Ireland penalty: Nathan Doak – 10-17; 29 mins – Ireland try: Alex Kendellen – 15-17; conversion: Nathan Doak – 17-17; 35 mins – France try: Paul Mallez – 17-22; conversion: Nolann Le Garrec – 17-24; 40+1 mins – Ireland penalty: Nathan Doak – 20-24; Half-time – Ireland 20 France 24; 48 mins – Ireland penalty: Nathan Doak – 23-24; 51 mins – France penalty: missed by Nolann Le Garrec – 23-24; 65 mins – France try: Louis Bielle Biarrey – 23-29; conversion: Nolann Le Garrec – 23-31; 69 mins – France penalty: Nolann Le Garrec – 23-34; 78 mins – Ireland try: Alex Kendellen – 28-34; conversion: missed by Nathan Doak – 28-34; Full-time – Ireland 28 France 34

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Jamie Osborne (Naas CBS/Naas RFC/Leinster); Ben Moxham (Larne High School/Ballymena RFC/Ulster), Jude Postlethwaite (RBAI/Banbridge RFC/Ulster), Cathal Forde (Colaiste Iognaid/Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Shane Jennings (Garbally College/Buccaneers RFC/Connacht); Nathan Doak (Wallace High School/Banbridge RFC/Ulster), Conor McKee (Sullivan Upper School/Queen's University Belfast RFC/Ulster); Temi Lasisi (CBS Enniscorthy/Lansdowne FC/Leinster), Ronan Loughnane (Cistercian College Roscrea/UCD RFC/Leinster), Sam Illo (Wesley College/Old Wesley RFC/Leinster), Mark Morrissey (Blackrock College/UCD RFC/Leinster), Harry Sheridan (Sullivan Upper School/Dublin University FC/Ulster), Alex Soroka (Belvedere College/Clontarf RFC/Leinster), Oisin McCormack (Garbally College/Buccaneers RFC/Connacht), Alex Kendellen (PBC Cork/UCC RFC/Munster) (capt). Replacements used: George Saunderson (Sullivan Upper School/Queen's University Belfast RFC/Ulster) for Lasisi (27 mins), Reuben Crothers (Wallace High School/Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster) for McCormack, Donnacha Byrne (Summerhill College/Sligo RFC/Connacht) for Morrissey (both 49), Ben Carson (Wallace High School/Banbridge RFC/Ulster) for McKee (56), Eoin de Buitléar (Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin/An Ghaeltacht/Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht) for Loughnane, Chris Cosgrave (St. Michael's College/UCD RFC/Leinster) for Jennings (both 66), Fearghail O'Donoghue (Cashel Community School/Cashel RFC/Munster) for Sheridan (75). Not used: Liam Bishop (Trent College/Nottingham University/IQ Rugby), Jack Kelleher (PBC Cork/UCC RFC/Munster), Will Reilly (St. Mary's CBS Portlaoise/MU Barnhall RFC/Leinster), Chay Mullins (SGC Filton/Bristol Bears/IQ Rugby).

Away Team

Alexandre Tchaptchet (Lyon OU); Louis Bielle Biarrey (FC Grenoble), Emilien Gailleton (SU Agen), Leo Barre (Stade Francais), Nelson Epee (Stade Toulousain); Thibault Debaes (Section Paloise), Nolann Le Garrec (Racing 92) (capt); Teo Bordenave (Section Paloise), Victor Montgaillard (USA Perpignan), Paul Mallez (Stade Toulousain), Thomas Ployet (Stade Rochelais), Adrien Warion (RC Toulonnais), Pierre Bochaton (US Bressane), Matthias Haddad Victor (USA Perpignan), Kylian Tixeront (Clermont Auvergne). Replacements used: Matteo Garcia (Union Bordeaux-Bègles) for Tchaptchet (27 mins), Matteo Le Corvec (RC Toulonnais) for Tixeront (half-time), Daniel Bibi Biziwu (Clermont Auvergne) for Bordenave (46), Maxime Baudonne (Racing 92) for Haddad Victor (52), Benjamin Boudou (Clermont Auvergne) for Montgaillard, Henzo Kiteau (Clermont Auvergne) for Mallez (both 61), Theo Idjellidaine (Stade Toulousain) for Le Garrec (70), Theo Ntamack (Stade Toulousain) for Warion (75). Not used: Romain Macurdy (Montpellier RC), Edgar Retiere (Stade Toulousain), Alfred Parisien (Lyon OU).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Jamie Osborne, Alex Kendellen 2; Cons: Nathan Doak 2; Pens: Nathan Doak 3

Away Team

Tries: Thibault Debaes, Pierre Bochaton, Paul Mallez, Louis Bielle Biarrey; Cons: Nolann Le Garrec 4; Pens: Nolann Le Garrec 2