Ireland’s World Cup dream ended by clinical French at UCD Bowl.
If Ireland were to progress from the group this evening, they Ireland needed to contain France early doors and keep it tight going into the final quarter. It wasn’t to be as another disjointed start saw Ireland 14 points down in as many minutes and desperately clinging on their counterparts’ coat tails.
France came with a relentless high intensity game plan that combined excellent lines of running and slick offloading in the tackle. It kept Ireland back peddling for almost the entirety of the opening period and but from some last ditch tackling the half time score could have been a lot worse.
Backrower Romane Menager got France off the mark in the 7th minutes as they capitalised on early pressure. The Number 7 was excellent in the opening period making excellent carries and always breaking the gain line.
Caroline Ladagnous added another try in the 14th minute and one more before the break as the French took total control of the game and establish what would prove to be an unassailable 21-point lead.
Ireland responded in the second half with huge chunks of possession and territory but a disappointing inability to convert either advantage into points on the scoreboard.
Following a sustained period of pressure, France conceded a series of penalties and Lenaig Corson was sent to the bin by referee Graham Cooper. With 36 minutes remaining Ireland had a numerical advantage and were camped on the French line. A sustained pick and go attack was eventually repelled as Ireland were held up in the maul and possession was turned over.
It was a familiar pattern to game as Ireland laid siege to the French line but to no avail. That was until Cliodhna Moloney burrowed over for a try her hugely committed side deserved with the last play of the game.
France go through to a last-four showdown with England; Ireland head for the 5th-8th-paced play-offs, where they will play Australia again in Belfast on Tuesday.
The attacking stats really make poor reading for Ireland with France gaining over twice the amount of attacking metres. The 572 metres gained by France came through 13 line breaks and 21 offloads. It is the offload stats that really show where Ireland struggled with only one clean line break and four offloads throughout the 80 minutes.
Interestingly, Ireland had more carries over the gain line with 92 compared to France with 79. This is there the biggest indictment of Ireland’s tactics are borne out. Ireland crossed the gain line more often but the gains were as a result of a simple pick and go strategy that never made significant yardage.
Down 21-0 Ireland set about closing the gap through their pick and go game when they got down to French territory. This approach is a slow painstaking and energy sapping tactic and if Ireland were going to adopt it, they would need to capitalise on every chance. The didn’t it was to prove their undoing.