Ireland U20s fall short
U20 World Cup: France 26 Ireland 24
It was always going to be a tall task to take down the hosts France in Perpignan on the opening night of the U20 World Cup.
Ireland began promisingly by double-teaming the French in the tackle and going through their phases well without any tangible reward.
Disaster struck when out-half Harry Byrne was blocked down by lock Killian Geraci and Ireland were slow to react to a quickly taken tap penalty for wing Maxime Marty to slide home in the fifth minute.
The reaction was solid, Byrne missing a shot from distance before notching three points in the 18th minute.
There was real patience to Ireland's approach, piercing the French from 14 phases through the reach of flanker Joe Dunleavy, Byrne's conversion making it 10-5 in the 22nd minute.
Sadly, Dan Hurley was forced off with a knee injury for Sean O'Brien to enter the fray.
France were extremely dangerous given room, Marty coming within a whisker of a second try.
They were just hanging on when wing Tom Roche grabbed an intercept try only for play to be called back and Jack Aungier to be rightly binned for a high tackle.
This didn't seem to bother Ireland as they went to the pick-and-go for scrum-half Hugh O'Sullivan to crash over, Byrne's conversion making it 17-5 at the break.
The last thing Ireland would have wanted was for France to strike quickly through their scrum-half Arthur Coville and Romain N'Tamack for two tries in as many minutes, the latter's conversions making it 19-17 in the 47th minute.
It went from bad to worse when full-back Clement Laporte shredded Ireland for Marty to claim his second, N'Tamack making it a nine-point game in the 52nd minute.
The Irish lineout started to creak and the scrum was completely overpowered.
Even so, they refused to bow and Byrne sniped the short-side from another impressive series of drives and converted in the 73rd minute for a losing bonus point.
Ireland replacement Johnny Stewart broke from deep and his kick forced a lineout out of Laporte which they lost and their last chance was gone.