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Ireland Under-19s Overhauled In Second Half

Ireland Under-19s Overhauled In Second Half

The half-time introduction of Clement Otazo proved crucial for a French Under-20 Development side at Templeville Road on Thursday, as they staged a spirited second half comeback to get the better of the Ireland Under-19s.

Click here to view highlights of the Ireland-France match.

Click here to view a post-match interview with head coach Colin McEntee.

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The Ireland Under-19s, coached by Colin McEntee and captained by flanker Conor Joyce, had been extremely impressive in the opening period, but the pace and power of the French paid dividends in the end.

In the second of two underage international matches played back-to-back at St. Mary’s College RFC, the Irish enjoyed a dream start to the contest.

Lively full-back Darragh Leader went on a well-timed run through the heart of the French defence before touching down to the right of the posts for a terrific try.

Centre Thomas Daly,  who had made the initial incision and provided the scoring pass to Leader, was on hand to split the posts with a tricky conversion.

The combined efforts of Leader and Daly gave Ireland a seven-point advantage inside the opening five minutes of play.

France looked somewhat flat-footed in the opening stages, but they did manage to manufacture a penalty eight minutes in, which gave them a chance to cut into the Irish lead.

Out-half Anderson Neisen was off target with his kick though, much to the relief of hosts. France did have some good possession after Leader’s opener, but they struggled to get their passing game together.

McEntee's side soon force their way back into the French half to increase their cushion to 10-0 thanks to a 22-metre penalty from the accurate Daly.

Ireland were really taking the game to the French in the opening period, and though the visitors did start to gain some good possession and territory as the half wore on, the Irish defence was watertight and well able to cope with whatever was thrown at them.

Indeed, by the end of the first half Ireland had managed to move the play further up the field once again, and they deservedly got through for a second try.

Castleknock College centre Tom Farrell was the scorer of the injury-time try following some excellent approach play by out-half Steve Crosbie.

Daly was narrowly wide of the mark with his conversion attempt, but a missed French penalty by scrum half Yohan Domenech meant that Ireland were 15-0 to the good at the break.

This was a healthy lead for Ireland to take into the second period, and it was one that was badly needed as they were facing into a stiff breeze when the game restarted.

They were also facing a much-changed French side for the second half, as the visitors opted to make a total of five changes during the break.

This offered them a fresh impetus in the opening stages of the second period, and though Ireland coped admirably with the huge pressure that France were exerting on them, they were powerless to stop them from scoring a breakthrough try.

Replacement hooker Raphael Carbou, who lined out against Ireland in the Under-20 Six Nations this year, got through for his side's first try of the afternoon after 53 minutes.

Clement Otazo, who kicked four penalties in that Under-20 encounter, came up short with the subsequent conversion attempt, but the try gave France a huge confidence boost heading into the final quarter.

They closed the gap even further six minutes later when number 8 Clement Ancely drove over at the end of a long push towards the Irish line, followed by a successful conversion by Otazo.

Les Bleus were in the ascendancy at this stage, and Bayonne's Otazo got in for a try of his own with seven minutes remaining via a neat offload by centre Thibaut Regard.

He was then on hand to convert his own try, which meant that Ireland were now trailing 19-15 as the closing moments of the game beckoned.

Ireland dug deep to apply some pressure on the French rearguard as the game moved into stoppage time, but they were caught on the break as another replacement Etienne Quiniou sealed a hard-earned 24-15 victory for his side with a try in the left corner.

Referee: Rhys Thomas (Wales)