Rugby: French packed plenty of punch

By Campbell Burnes

Ivan Roux of France is tackled by Ross Byrne and Garry Ringrose of Ireland. Photo / Getty Images
Ivan Roux of France is tackled by Ross Byrne and Garry Ringrose of Ireland. Photo / Getty Images

From the get-go, this clash appealed as the tightest fixture of the day.

It did not disappoint. This was far from flawless rugby, but there was enough intensity and vigour to keep the fans on the edge of their seats for the duration. Ireland had chances to clinch it later on but coughed up the ball in promising positions.

It was tit for tat early as kickers Ross Byrne of Ireland and Baptiste Serin of France traded penalties, the latter continuing the long tradition of goalkicking French No 9s.

The French pack packed plenty of punch, and the lively Serin was central to much of their structure, but their backs stood too deep and could not make their possession count enough. However, they did open the tryscoring after a lineout drive when lock Arthur Iturria carried strongly and second five Ivan Roux was able to spear over, running a much flatter and more effective line.

Then, cool as you please, No 10 Brandon Fajardo slotted a dropped goal from 40m, the first of his two.

It didn't look promising off the boot, but it was worth a crucial three points.

Undeterred, Ireland struck back immediately, fullback Cian Kelleher, who had already made a trysaving tackle, sliced through. It was game on at 16-10 after the first stanza.

Into the second spell, Ireland was making yards around the fringes, but could not convert their chances. Byrne missed a penalty goal from a fairly easy angle and the errors crept into the Ireland game.

Standouts for France were the trio of loosies, skipper Francois Cros, Yacouba Camara and Jean-Blaise Lespinasse, who were robust with the ball and uncompromising without it.

Ireland's captain Jack O'Donoghue, who looks the goods at No 8, was best on show for the vanquished, while lock Ross Molony won a heap of lineout ball.

France 19 (Ivan Roux try; Baptiste Serin con, 2 pens, Brandon Fajardo 2 DGs)
Ireland 13 (Cian Kelleher try; Ross Byrne con, pen, Conor McKeown pen)
HT: 16-10 France.

- NZ Herald

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