Ireland prove no match for powerful France side in Six Nations defeat

There is no hiding place at the top-level of Test rugby, and France delivered a brutal reminder by dismantling an Ireland side, who were no match for their pace and power.

hen your set-piece crumbles and you make a litany of sloppy errors, you are always going to be up against it. When you do so against one of the best teams in the world, there is only going to be one outcome.

This heavy defeat in front of 11, 657 supporters at a noisy Stade Ernest Wallon means Ireland have still never beaten France on French soil, as that unwanted losing streak now stretches to 10 losses.

In truth, that record was never likely to change today, yet the manner of Ireland’s poor performance was far below the standards that they have set for themselves.

As the scrum was marched backwards at an alarming rate, the lineout faltered and from there, Ireland made far too many poor mistakes.

Much of that came about from France’s pressure, but far too often, Ireland’s basics let them down, as passes went to ground, while players were guilty of letting the ball bounce.

Ireland are committed to playing an expansive game-plan under Greg McWilliams, yet the players must quickly learn that there is a time and place to play the ball.

As the visitors repeatedly looked to play from deep, France punished the naivety, as they ran in six tries to Ireland’s one consolation, courtesy of Eve Higgins.

There were glimpses of Ireland’s ability amidst the carnage, with Stacey Flood looking to spread the ball wide with her sharp passing. Neve Jones again packed a punch in defense while for the second week running, Linda Djougang played the full 80 minutes to further highlight the worrying lack of prop depth.

Ireland will have to quickly pick themselves up after this humbling experience because Italy are coming to Cork next weekend in what is a huge game for McWilliams’ side.

France out-half Caroline Drouin kicked an early penalty after Dorothy Wall was pinged for holding on.

Ireland thought they had come up with the perfect response when Higgins darted under the posts after nine minutes, but the TMO spotted Dorothy Wall had played a French defender off the ball. It was a major let-off for the hosts who were soon sprung to life.

With the Ireland scrum creaking, France moved the ball wide off penalty advantage, with 19-year old Six Nations debutante Melissande Llorens crossing in the corner.

It was all very ominous and as soon as France clicked into gear, they were unstoppable.

Drouin kicked a second penalty after the Irish scrum buckled again, and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe had to be alert with a sharp try-saving tackle.

That only briefly stemmed the flow, however, as local Toulouse crowd favorite Laure Sansus made an Antoine Dupont-esque break off the back of another scrum penalty.

They like their electric scrum-halves in these parts, and Sansus stamped her class all over this utterly one-sided contest.

Trailing 16-0, Ireland’s forced errors were mounting, and France were ruthless as they exploited the sloppy mistakes.

Audrey Forlani got her side’s third try from close range and the bonus point was wrapped up in the 37th minute minute when Clara Joyeux was adjudged to have grounded the ball by the referee’s on-field decision.

In between the further damage, France were lucky not to have had a player sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Jones, while Sam Monaghan and Edel McMahon both threw sublime offloads to create line breaks, but ultimately, Ireland were not clinical enough to take advantage.

Ireland’s handling error count was up to 15 by half-time and with a 26-point deficit to make up, there was no way back.

McWilliams sprung Christy Haney from the bench for her first cap and Beibhinn Parsons, whose first action was to be penalised for a high tackle.

Ireland were guilty of trying to run the ball from their own line and they paid the price, as yet another scrum penalty allowed Sansus to make a similar break off the back and score. At the fifth time of asking, Drouin added the extras to push France into a 32-0 lead.

To their credit, Ireland hit back with a superb team score, as they finally stayed patient and worked their way through the phases until the gap opened up in the French defence. Higgins didn’t need a second invitation to breeze through and score under the posts to put her side on the scoreboard.

Both benches were emptied, which disrupted the flow of the game, but France found their groove again, and Emilie Boulard completed the rout by scoring her side’s sixth try, converted by Jessy Tremouliere, before Boulard was yellow carded for a high tackle in the dying internships.

Scorers – France: Sansus 2 tries, Llorens, Forlani, Joyeux, Boulard 1 try each, Drouin 1 con & 2 tripe, Tremouliere 1 con. Ireland: Higgins 1 try.

France: C Boulard; C Banet, M Filopon, G Vernier (C Jacquet 69), M Llorens; C Drouin (J Tremouliere 55), L Sansus (A Chambon 60); C Lindelauf (A Deshayes 55), L Touye (C Domain 68), C Joyeux (A Khalfaoui 55); M Fall (C Ferer 55), A Forlani; A Berthoumieu, G Hermet (capt) (J Annery 63), R Menager.

Ireland: E Considine (B Parsons ht); AL Murphy Crowe, E Higgins, S Flood (E Breen 74), L Mulhall; N Cronin, A Reilly (K Dane 55); L Djougang, N Jones (E Hooban 55), K O’Dwyer (C Haney ht); N Fryday (capt) (A McGann 74), S Monaghan; S Wall, E McMahon, B Hogan (HO’Connor 55).

Referee: A Barrett-Theron (South Africa).

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