Match Report

Prendergast keeps his cool to down France at the death

Prendergast winning kick 2000
Sam Prendergast proved Ireland’s hero, kicking a 77th minute penalty for a dramatic 33-31 win against France in Round 2 of the Under-20 Six Nations.

Sam Prendergast proved Ireland’s hero, kicking a 77th minute penalty for a dramatic 33-31 win against France in Round 2 of the Under-20 Six Nations.

In a topsy-turvy and chaotic affair, the lead exchanged hands on multiple occasions before Prendergast, who was near-faultless from the tee, kicked the defending champions to victory.

Ireland led 20-14 at half time having dominated the set piece against a young French side but were pegged back time and time again.

Twice France thought they had won it late on but Ireland refused to go away and superstar fly-half Prendergast kept them on course for a second consecutive Grand Slam with a nerveless kick at the death to send Musgrave Park into raptures.

Ireland started the brighter of the two sides but squandered two opportunities to score inside the opening ten minutes.

Captain Gus McCarthy spilled forward from a quick tap just short of the French line before James McNabney was penalised for a double movement from an equally dangerous position.

France failed to heed the warning and were punished after yet another indiscretion, with Prendergast kicking the first points of the game from close range.

The first try of the evening followed just two minutes later, with Paddy McCarthy, younger brother of senior international Joe, crashing over as the Irish pack continued to make their presence felt.

But Ireland too, struggled to stay on the right side of the law at times, and a flurry of penalties presented France a first genuine attacking opportunity.

Their forwards showed what they were capable of from the set-piece, and were up and running on the scoreboard when Hugo Auradou bustled over with the support of a few henchmen, but Ireland responded swiftly through the boot of Prendergast to make it 13-7.

Then, on the half hour mark, a nightmare passage of play for France saw prop Zaccharie Affane sin-binned before Irish winger Hugh Gavin twisted brilliantly to dot down, the try awarded with the help of the TMO.

But Ireland could not make the man advantage count further and it was France who were next to score, with another devastating lineout drive paving the way for the bushy-haired Brent Liufau to flop over as half time approached.

Prendergast then made it five from five from the tee just after the restart but despite a numerical advantage with Lenni Nouchi sin-binned, Ireland were unable to establish a firm grip of the contest against a France side containing seven 18-year-olds.

And the visitors very nearly made it a two-point game when Marko Gazzotti gathered Tom Raffy’s penalty which struck the upright, but the danger was quickly snaffled out by a host of Irish defenders who combined to hold the No.8 up over the line.

But Les Bleus were not to be disheartened and worked the Irish defence spectacularly to allow Théo Attissogbe to score in the corner just shy of the hour mark.

Replacement Hugo Reus missed the conversion attempt but that was the least of Ireland’s troubles with Diarmuid Mangan sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, meaning the hosts were temporarily reduced to 13 men following George Hadden’s earlier yellow card.

And France were over again almost immediately, with Nouchi stretching over to score following a lineout drive, with the visitors ahead by just a point.

In keeping with the flow of the game, back came Ireland when it seemed France had the upper hand and Brian Gleeson touched down after a sustained spell of pressure to make it 30-24 to the defending champions.

Flanker McNabney knocked on from the resulting restart and that proved costly just moments later when Enzo Benmegal dived over in the corner.

Reus made it third time lucky from the tee, splitting the posts brilliantly to give his side a 1-point lead.

But Prendergast was again the coolest man in Cork, kicking a penalty at the second attempt to hand his side a memorable victory.