Match Report


Finn Treacy
Jack Murphy kicked two late penalties as Ireland’s bid for a third straight U20 Six Nations Grand Slam started with a 37-31 win in France.

A replay of last summers' World Rugby U20 Championship final, both teams registered try bonus points in a thrilling contest at a packed-out Stade Maurice David.

It was an imperious performance from Clontarf's Murphy, who was faultless from the kicking tee and influential in several of his team's four tries.

Danny Sheahan scored the game’s first, Ireland business-like as Murphy kicked into the France 22m before their driving maul sent the hooker across the whitewash.

France, as they did throughout the match, responded swiftly through their captain Mathis Castro-Ferreira. The big No.8 dotted down from close range before kicker Tom Raffy levelled the score from the tee.

Ireland's own No.8, Brian Gleeson, restored the visitors’ the lead by staying low and burrowing over from short range but, in a see-saw game, France came back at them and Castro-Ferreira scored his second try just five minutes before half-time following an almighty shove from the scrum.

Having battled back to level the score, France made a naïve error and gifted Ireland a half-time lead by infringing at the ruck. Murphy's metronomic place kicking sent the visitors in at the break 17-14 to the good.

However, the pattern of the first half continued in the second and Sébastien Calvet's team made an impressive response after the break.

France set-up camp deep in opposition territory and won a penalty five metres out. Scrum-half Léo Carbonneau tapped the ball, gestured towards his captain, Castro-Ferreira, but then whipped a pass to Patrick Tuifua to barrel over the try line.

This time, it was Ireland’s turn to respond and the Men in Green retook a narrow lead through Hugh Gavin’s first try while France's Grégoire Arfeuil spent time in the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on making it 24-21.

France levelled it up again with 15 minutes left thanks to a well-struck Raffy penalty, and those final minutes certainly offered much drama.

Finn Treacy struck the first blow as a midfield mishap from France allowed Murphy to hack the ball through and the wing to dot down.

Back came France, and Maël Perrin's converted score put the two teams neck-and-neck again, but the decisive blow came four minutes from time as a France high tackle set Murphy up for a shot at goal, and he held his nerve on what proved to be a faultless night.

He then added a third penalty in the final minute to cement the win and complete a dream weekend in France for Irish Rugby.