The Ireland under-20s fell agonisingly short of defeating Grand Slam champions France in their opening IRB Junior World Championship match in Auckland, going down 19-13 to their Pool B rivals.

Mike Ruddock's youngsters put their injuries woes and a French-dominated first half behind them to seize control of the game during the third quarter.

However, they were unable to force their way over for a potentially decisive converted try and France held on with two Brandon Fajardo drop goals proving the difference between the sides.

The French, boasting a much more settled side, dominated first half possession and territory. They opened up a 16-3 lead thanks to Ivan Roux's 31st-minute try, with half-backs Baptiste Serin and Fajardo kicking the other points.

But Ireland, thanks to a tenacious defensive display, hung in there and got their reward four minutes before the break when full-back Cian Kelleher ran in a timely seven-pointer.

Aided by a superior scrum, the Irish had France on the back foot on the resumption but they had no points to show for it as the otherwise impressive Ross Byrne sent a penalty wide.

Although Byrne's replacement Conor McKeon did claw back three points in the 68th minute, it was in response to Fajardo's second crisply-struck drop goal of the night and France were relieved to hang on in a nervy finish.

Despite the frustrating defeat, Ireland will take encouragement from the level of performance they put in - particularly in the second half - with six players winning their first under-20 caps (Ciaran Gaffney, Dylan Donnellan, Darragh Moloney, Diarmaid Dee, Ryan Foley and Billy Dardis).