France 34-13 Ireland
The Ireland Under-20s were well beaten as France's second-half surge saw them ease to a 34-13 victory in tonight's Under-20 Six Nations clash in Narbonne.
Second rows Peter Claffey and James Ryan both touched down during a physical first-half display from Ireland, with Gabriel N'Gandebe's late effort giving the French a 17-13 interval lead.
But the hosts completely dominated the closing 40 minutes as lock Florian Verhaegue bagged a brace of tries and impressive kicker Anthony Belleau finished with 14 points.
It was a second defeat of the 2016 Championship for Nigel Carolan's side who looked rather rudderless in that one-sided second period, as powerful forwards Verhaegue, Peato Mauvaka, Judicaël Cancoriet and Anthony Jelonch shone for the table toppers.
With a slippery ball and a tricky wind to cope with, a seventh-minute ruck penalty allowed Irish number 10 Johnny McPhillips to open the scoring from long range.
Ireland had the lion's share of territory during the opening quarter, probing through McPhillips' boot - albeit quite aimlessly at times - and a couple of neat runs from Conor O'Brien and Hugo Keenan.
However, France's line-speed and defensive solidity cut down the space and Belleau drew the hosts level (3-3) by the midpoint of the half.
Strong running from Belleau and N'Gandebe, either side of a well-executed break and kick chase by Clontarf clubman O'Brien, showed France's ability with ball in hand.
But Ireland's endeavour up front paid dividends with a cracking first try. They turned down a shot at the posts, backing their maul to do further damage and after Ryan broke off for a powerful carry up to the line, fellow lock Claffey shrugged off the first tackler to plunge over from a couple of metres out.
McPhillips missed the conversion and France came storming back, a powerful bust from flanker Cancoriet and follow-up offload setting winger N'Gandebe free, but Ryan did brilliantly to hold him up past the posts.
The French forwards made sure they scored from the resulting five-metre scrum, driving Ireland backwards to earn a penalty try which Belleau converted for 10-8.
Ryan's try came barely two minutes later, another lineout maul in the 22 setting up the opportunity and the skipper exploded off the back of the drive to score in decisive fashion. McPhillips' conversion was well struck again, but missed on the far right side.
Crucially, Ireland leaked a second try in the final seconds of the half. France hammered away in the 22, pressing from a maul and scrum before Damien Penaud's pass on the right wing bounced favourably for the waiting N'Gandabe to score. Belleau added an excellent conversion to open up a four-point lead.
France turned the tables on the Irish pack with some tremendous mauling early on after the resumption, one particular effort allowing Belleau to make it 20-13 off the kicking tee.
Bulldozing hooker Mauvaka, who made a number of strong carries, set up a long-range penalty which Belleau sent narrowly to the right of the posts.
A harsh ruck penalty against Andrew Porter allowed France to remain on the front foot, and the French bench made a considerable collective impact with the defensive workload taking its toll on Carolan's tiring charges.
As Ireland struggled for possession and territory, France duly wrapped up the result with two tries from Verhaegue either side of the hour mark.
He proved unstoppable from close range in the 57th minute as a series of French pick-and-go plays gained reward. Belleau converted and also added the extras to Verhaegue's second five-pointer, as Ireland's defence around the fringes wilted again.
Despite some positive play from the likes of Conor O'Brien, Cillian Gallagher and replacements Kelvin Brown and Stephen Kerins, Ireland were unable to respond to France's two-try salvo and Brett Connan's penalty kick, which went out on the full, summed up a disappointing night for the visitors.
France: Romain Buros (Section Paloise, Pôle Bayonne); Gabriel N'Gandebe (RC Massy Essonne), Damien Penaud (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Alexandre Arrate (Biarritz Olympique, Pôle Bayonne), Eliott Roudil (Stade Rochelais); Anthony Belleau (RC Toulon, Pôle Talence), Christoper Kaiser (RC Narbonne Méditerranée); Clément Castets (Montpellier HR, Pôle Béziers) (capt), Peato Mauvaka (Stade Toulousain), Michaël Simutoga (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Pôle Ussel), Florian Verhaegue (Stade Toulousain, Pôle Toulouse), Mathieu Tanguy (Stade Rochelais, Pôle Tours), Matthieu Voisin (Racing 92, Pôle Lakanal), Judicaël Cancoriet (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Pôle Lakanal), Anthony Jelonch (Castres Olympique).
Replacements used: Pierre Bourgarit (FC Auch G) for Castets, Emerick Setiano ( RC Toulon, Pôle Tours) for Simutoga, Baptiste Couilloud ((Lyon OU) for Kaiser (all 54 mins), Jean-Baptiste Grenod (RC Toulon, Pôle Hyères) for Voisin, Atila Septar (CA Brive, Pôle Ussel) for Arrate (all 60), Elias El Ansari (RC Massy Essonne, Pôle Lakanal) for Mauvaka, Alexandre Pilati (Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Pôle Talence) for Penaud (both 71).
Ireland: Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster); Matthew Byrne (Terenure College/Leinster), Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster), Jimmy O'Brien (UCD/Leinster), Conor O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster); Johnny McPhillips (Queen's University/Ulster), John Poland (Cork Constitution/Munster); Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster), Conor Kenny (Buccaneers/Connacht), Peter Claffey (Galwegians/Connacht), James Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster) (capt), Cillian Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht), Dan Walsh (Cork Constitution/Munster), Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster).
Replacements used: Terry Kennedy (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for Daly (45 mins), Kelvin Brown (Shannon/Munster) for Deegan (47), Conan O'Donnell (Sligo/Connacht) for Kenny (52), Sean O'Connor (Cashel/Munster) for Walsh (58), Shane Fenton (Young Munster/Munster) for McBurney (61), Stephen Kerins (Sligo/Connacht) for Poland, Brett Connon (Newcastle Falcons/Exiles) for McPhillips (both 66), James Bollard (Dublin University/Leinster) for Porter (72).
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England).