Despite two first half tries from Munster pair Seamus Keating and John Madigan, the Ireland Under-18 Clubs team ultimately came off second best in a lively international encounter with France at St Mary’s College RFC on Thursday.
Click here to view highlights of the Ireland-France match.
Played in extremely sunny conditions, it was the travelling French side that had the better of the opening exchanges.
They deservedly took the lead four minutes in when hooker Loick Jammes drove over the line on the right hand side for a try that was expertly converted by out-half Yoan Le Bourhis.
This was not the start that the Wayne Mitchell-coached hosts would have been hoping for, but they soon settled into the contest.
Good pressure in the French half led to a penalty just outside the 22-metre line, which was slotted over coolly by Navan’s Fergal Cleary.
A superb 12th minute drop goal by La Rouchelle clubman Le Bourhis restores France’s seven-point advantage but, thanks to the incisiveness of Cleary and half-back partner Killian O’Keeffe, Ireland soon broke through for a try.
Just five minutes later, Dungarvan winger Seamus Keating drove over on the left following a sweeping move across the back-line.
Cleary was narrowly off target with the subsequent conversion attempt from a tight angle, but Ireland were certainly growing in confidence as the minutes went by, and they were starting to cause plenty of problems for their opponents.
They continued to apply plenty of pressure towards the closing stages of the half, and their persistence paid off in the first minute of stoppage time.
They got a second try courtesy of second row John Madigan at the end of a long maul on the right. Cleary came up short once more with his conversion effort.
But Le Bourhis was also wide of the mark with a late penalty from distance, which meant that Ireland took a three-point advantage (13-10) with them into the interval.
After a somewhat pulsating opening half, the start of the second period was a more low key affair, though France were very much on the top in the possession stakes.
Indeed, it only took them two minutes to restore parity, as Le Bourhis rediscovered his radar to convert a close range penalty for the French.
He was presented with a chance to put his side back into the lead with a 30-metre penalty on the left. But, fortunately for Ireland, his kick drifted past the far post on this occasion.
The young Irish outfit were finding themselves on the back foot more and more as the half progressed, however, and further pressure from the French pack led to another place-kick in the 51st minute which Le Bourhis converted with relative ease for a 16-13 scoreline.
This really put it up to Ireland heading into the final quarter of play. The hosts were finding it hard to create any in-roads against a French defence that had tightened up considerably upon the resumption.
They tried their level best to forge their way back into the reckoning, but a late converted penalty by French replacement Adrien Bau gave the opposition side a more comfortable cushion with full-time looming.
Ireland did put on a big push in the final minute of the game but despite their best endeavours, Mitchell's charges were unable to add to their tally and the French held on for a 19-13 success..
Referee: Steve Lee (England)