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France fans celebrate late in the game. SteveHaagSports/Darren Stewart/INPHO

Ireland U20s suffer heartbreaking loss to France in World Cup final

Richie Murphy’s side were well beaten in the tournament’s climactic game.

France U20 50 (17)

Ireland U20 14 (14)

Jon Cardinelli reports from Athlone Stadium

FRANCE CLINCHED their third-consecutive World Rugby U20 Championship title when they bulldozed Ireland 50-14 in Athlone on Friday.

France came into the final as favourites, and certainly lived up to the hype at the gainline and with ball in hand.

A magic display of offloading and finishing brought the crowd to its feet on more than one occasion, and the Irish simply didn’t have the means to repel the blue juggernaut for 80 minutes.

Perhaps this is why Richie Murphy’s side went into this clash with the intent to score more tries than their opponents.

After winning several early penalties deep in French territory, Ireland opted to set the lineout rather than shoot for goal. This tactic paid dividends on two occasions, with the set piece laying the platform for tries by scrumhalf Fintan Gunne and centre John Devine.

But while Ireland were clinical in the red zone, they were far less accurate in other parts of the field. The lineout misfired at key moments, and it was from a botched set piece that they gifted France the opportunity to counter-attack.

The ball was shifted quickly to the left flank, and found several men in space. Ireland did well to scramble back, but couldn’t stop the French from dominating the contact or throwing a series of offloads. Fullback Mathis Ferte latched onto one of these passes and jetted in for his team’s first try.

Flyhalf Hugo Reus slotted the conversion, as well as a 22-minute penalty goal to give his side the lead. Devine’s response ensured that his team stayed in the contest, but another lapse before the break cost them dearly.

Following Devine’s try, Ireland dropped the ensuing kickoff and handed France a scrum on the 22m line. The giant French forwards proceeded to hammer their way through the defence, with prop Lino Julien eventually crashing over for the try.

Ireland’s grip of the contest slipped after prop Paddy McCarthy was shown a yellow card after bringing down a French maul on his own try line. France appeared to score from the subsequent play, but were denied when the officials penalised them for obstruction.

France atoned for the mistake shortly after half-time, though, when they set a maul and powered through a short-handed Irish pack. Before Ireland had a chance to regroup, they were struck once more, this time by centre Nicolas Depoortere. The double blow yielded 14 points and proved fatal to Ireland’s title chances.

France weren’t done yet, though, with Ferte adding his second in the 69th minute.

Captain Lenni Nouchi took a pass on his own 10m line and then raced all the way to the tryline, while a late score by winger Leo Drouet and a conversion by Reus boosted Les Bleus to 50 points.

The result earned France their third-straight World Rugby U20 Championship title after they won the previous editions in 2018 and 2019.

Earlier, hosts South Africa beat England 22-15 in the third-place playoff to finish their campaign on a high.

France U20 scorers:

Tries: Mathis Ferte (2), Lino Julien, Pierre Jouvin, Nicolas Depoortere, Lenni Nouchi, Leo Drouet

Conversions: Hugo Reus [6 from 7]

Penalties: Reus [1 from 2]

Ireland U20 scorers:

Tries: Fintan Gunne, John Devine

Conversions: Sam Prendergast [2 from 2]

FRANCE U20: Mathis Ferte, Leo Drouet, Nicolas Depoortere, Paul Costes, Theo Attissogbe, Hugo Reus, Baptiste Jauneau; Lino Julien, Pierre Jouvin, Zaccharie Affane, Hugo Auradou, Posolo Tuilagi, Lenni Nouchi (captain), Oscar Jegou, Marko Gazzotti.

Replacements: Thomas Lacombre, Alexandre Kaddouri, Thomas Duchene, Brent Liufau, Mathis Ferreira, Leo Carbonneau, Arthur Mathiron, Clement Mondinat.

IRELAND U20: Henry McErlean, Andrew Osborne, Hugh Gavin, John Devine, James Nicholson, Sam Prendergast, Fintan Gunne; Paddy McCarthy, Gus McCarthy (captain), Ronan Foxe, Diarmund Mangan, Conor O’Tighearnaigh, James McNabney, Ruadhan Quinn, Brian Gleeson.

Replacements: Max Clein, George Hadden, Fiachna Barrett, Charlie Irvine, Evan O’Connell, Oscar Cawley, Matthew Lynch, Sam Berman.

Referee: Damian Schneider [Argentina].

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