France 47 – 17 Ireland
Scorers – Ireland: Tries: Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Sene Naoupu; Cons: Nicole Fowley
Scorers – France: Tries: Caroline Thomas, Ian Jason, Lise Arricastre, Caroline Boujard, Romane Menager, Audrey Forlani, Marine Menager; Cons: Jessy Tremouliere 6
HT: Ireland Women 12 France Women 28
A very entertaining 10-try tussle ended 47-17 in France’s favour as the Ireland Women suffered their second home defeat of this year’s Six Nations campaign.
First half tries from captain Ciara Griffin and Claire Molloy had Ireland just 14-12 behind, but that was as close as they got as the 6,047-strong crowd – a record for a standalone Women’s match on Irish soil – watched the star-studded French side reel off seven tries, including one from number 8 Romane Menager who was red-carded on the hour mark for leading with her forearm into the defending Griffin’s neck.
The 28-12 scoreline at half-time was not a true reflection of a fiercely-competitive first half, with Ireland recovering well from Nichola Fryday’s second-minute sin-binning. However, too often they were guilty of loose kicking and missed tackles. France were clinical on the counter – player-of-the-match Caroline Boujard in particular – and they remain in the title hunt, albeit that England are red-hot favourites to win the Grand Slam against Scotland at Twickenham next Saturday.
Jessy Tremouliere, the reigning World Rugby 15s Player of the Year, showed her class on her return from a knee injury, landing all six of her conversion attempts and joining Boujard in consistently testing the home defence out wide. Try-scoring lock Audrey Forlani was another player to impress in the absence of Safi N’Diaye and Lenaig Corson, while Griffin and Molloy, especially in the first half, led the Irish charge with an infectiously high work-rate and their cleverness on both sides of the ball.
Determined to bounce back from their defeat to Italy, Adam Griggs’ Ireland side endured a nightmare start tonight. They lost lock Fryday to the bin after she was guilty of tackling Yanna Rivoalen without the ball as the French were on the cusp of turning a Boujard-led attack into a try. That score came from the resulting lineout maul as hooker Caroline Thomas was comfortably driven over and Tremouliere crisply converted from the right.
The hosts’ response raised the decibel level as they established a foothold in the French half and Alison Miller burst onto Eimear Considine’s flat pass to go agonisingly close to scoring in the left corner. France pressurised the five-metre scrum which included Naoupu at blindside, but Griffin broke from number 8, swatted away the first defender and steamrolled her way over the whitewash. Nicole Fowley missed the conversion at 7-5.
Ireland gave up a frustrating 12th-minute try from a Kathryn Dane box-kick, allowing Boujard to break clean through midfield and despite Considine and Lauren Delany scrambling back to bring her down, her offload freed up fellow winger Ian Jason to finish off near the left corner. Another peach of a conversion from Tremouliere followed, but once more Ireland hit back through their forwards, who carried forcefully before Molloy expertly found a sliver of space to dive over past two covering defenders.
Fowley restored the two-point deficit with a left-sided conversion, and Ireland’s tails were up with Molloy, teenage new cap Enya Breen and the long-striding Delany testing the visitors’ defence. France turned the screw past the half hour mark, benefiting from a couple of penalties up the left touchline. From a dangerous maul Forlani was brought down short before prop Lise Arricastre slipped out of Naoupu’s grasp to score to the left of the posts.
Try number four arrived for last year’s champions just short of the interval, Forlani forcing a knock-on from Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird near halfway and Rivoalen’s kick over the top was gobbled up by Boujard who could not be caught by the chasing Miller and Fowley. Poor kicking out of hand from the Irish half-backs invited France to counter at pace on the resumption, with Molloy rescuing her side with a relieving penalty at the breakdown.
France upped their accuracy and intensity, a rip on Delany by Yolaine Yengo and deft hands from Rivoalen paving the way for abrasive number 8 Menager to power over for her try, past the attempted tackles of Aoife McDermott and Miller. Ireland avoided another concession shortly afterwards as France, who continued to pressurise new hooker Nic a Bhaird’s throw, were whistled up for obstruction at a maul.
Menager’s dismissal allowed Ireland some breathing space and they stormed back with arguably the try of the night. Superb hands from Naoupu ignited the attack as 17-year-old replacement Beibhinn Parsons, on her Championship debut, gained 20 metres from her first real touch. Linda Djougang also got over the gain-line, punching holes up towards the line and Considine’s long floated pass released Naoupu to run in from 10 metres out.
Replacement Ellen Murphy was unable to convert the 62nd minute score from the right, although she was part of a lively set of Irish replacements. Snappy scrum half Nicole Cronin made an impact on her return from an Achilles injury, having one notable break from deep, yet 14-woman France were still 35-17 clear. They finished with a flourish, Forlani going over in the 71st minute after catching Lindsay Peat napping as a pillar defender, and replacement Marine Menager joined her 22-year-old twin sister on the scoresheet when released for the right corner by skipper Gaelle Hermet and Coumba Diallo.
TIMELINE: 2 minutes – Ireland yellow card: Nichola Fryday; 3 mins – France try: Caroline Thomas – 0-5; conversion: Jessy Tremouliere – 0-7; 9 mins – Ireland try: Ciara Griffin – 5-7; conversion: missed by Nicole Fowley – 5-7; 12 mins – France try: Ian Jason – 5-12; conversion: Jessy Tremouliere – 5-14; 18 mins – Ireland try: Claire Molloy – 10-14; conversion: Nicole Fowley – 12-14; 32 mins – France try: Lise Arricastre – 12-19; conversion: Jessy Tremouliere – 12-21; 37 mins – France try: Caroline Boujard – 12-26; conversion: Jessy Tremouliere – 12-28; Half-time – Ireland 12 France 28; 45 mins – France try: Romane Menager – 12-33; conversion: Jessy Tremouliere – 12-35; 59 mins – France red card: Romane Menager; 62 mins – Ireland try: Sene Naoupu – 17-35; conversion: missed by Ellen Murphy – 17-35; 71 mins – France try: Audrey Forlani – 17-40; conversion: Jessy Tremouliere – 17-42; 75 mins – France try: Marine Menager – 17-47; conversion: missed by Pauline Bourdon – 17-47; Full-time – Ireland 17 France 47
IRELAND WOMEN: Lauren Delany (Firwood Waterloo Ladies/IQ Rugby); Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster), Enya Breen (UL Bohemians/Munster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/Connacht), Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster); Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht), Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemians/Munster), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Galwegians/Connacht), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt), Claire Molloy (Wasps), Claire McLaughlin (Old Belvedere/Ulster).
Replacements used: Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster) for Feely (47 mins), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Connacht) for Miller (48), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Reidy, Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Fowley, Anna Caplice (Richmond) for McLaughlin (all 54), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Dane (65), Emma Hooban (St. Mary’s/Leinster) for Nic a Bhaird (67), Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster) for Fryday (69).
FRANCE WOMEN: Jessy Tremouliere (ASM Romagnat Rugby Féminin); Caroline Boujard (Montpellier RC), Yolaine Yengo (Stade Rennais), Gabrielle Vernier (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois), Ian Jason (Stade Toulousain); Pauline Bourdon (AS Bayonnaise), Yanna Rivoalen (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois); Lise Arricastre (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Caroline Thomas (ASM Romagnat Rugby Féminin), Clara Joyeux (Blagnac Rugby Féminin), Celine Ferer (AS Bayonnaise), Audrey Forlani (Blagnac Rugby Féminin), Gaelle Hermet (Stade Toulousain) (capt), Coumba Diallo (Stade Français Paris), Romane Menager (Montpellier RC).
Replacements used: Mailys Traore (Stade Toulousain) for Arricastre (51 mins), Chloe Pelle for Joyeux (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois/FFR) (64), Emma Coudert (ASM Romagnat Rugby Féminin) for Rivoalen (65), Milena Soloch (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois) for Thomas (both 70), Marine Menager (Montpellier RC) for Tremouliere (72), Camille Imart (Stade Toulousain) for Yengo, Laetitia Bobo (Stade Toulousain) for Ferrer (both 75). Not used: Fiona Lecat (Stade Toulousain).
Referee: Ian Tempest (England)