Ireland Lay Down Marker With Improved Performance Against France

Ireland Lay Down Marker With Improved Performance Against France

The Ireland Women (sponsored by Aon) lifted their game in a number of areas, losing their Guinness Six Nations opener 38-17 in Le Mans but keeping France to their lowest try and points tallies in five meetings.


Saturday, March 23 -

FRANCE WOMEN 38 IRELAND WOMEN 17, Stade Marie-Marvingt, Le Mans
Scorers: France: Tries: Pauline Bourdon Sansus, Marine Menager, Madoussou Fall, Agathe Sochat, Elisa Riffonneau; Cons: Lina Queyroi 4, Morgane Bourgeois; Pen: Lina Queyroi
Ireland: Tries: Aoife Wafer, Aoife Dalton; Cons: Dannah O'Brien 2; Pen: Nicole Fowley
HT: France 17 Ireland 3

Aoife Wafer's first international try, in the 70th minute, was followed by an opportunist score from Aoife Dalton as Ireland's first Six Nations outing under Scott Bemand produced some notable positives.

Captained by Edel McMahon, the girls in green proved tough to break down, upping their physicality against the world's third-ranked team with a mammoth total of 232 tackles made and only 17 missed.

Tries from Pauline Bourdon Sansus and Marine Menager had France leading 17-3 at the break. They went on to bag a hard-earned bonus point, but Ireland conceded only five tries compared to nine in Cork last year.

It was the lowest amount of points France have scored against Ireland since 2018's 24-0 win in Toulouse, while Bemand's charges, including Katie Corrigan on her debut, and Six Nations newcomers Fiona Tuite and Sarah Delaney, matched the 17 points their predecessors scored in the 2019 clash.

Out-half Nicole Fowley marked her first Six Nations start since 2019 with a well-struck penalty, and the likes of Dalton, Hannah O'Connor, and Brittany Hogan turned in big performances that they will look to build on against Italy at the RDS next Sunday - tickets are available to buy here.

Les Bleues were ominously on the board after just two minutes, with scrum half Bourdon Sansus to the fore. She won a turnover penalty and then used a maul to snipe in behind the posts for a try which Lina Queyroi converted.

Eve Higgins and 18-year-old winger Corrigan scrambled well in defence as Marine Menager threatened twice out wide. Fowley's tactical kicking, coupled with two loose French lineouts, put Ireland into some advanced positions.

Christy Haney then got the edge on Annaëlle Deshayes to win a scrum penalty, and a crisp 13th-minute strike from Fowley closed the gap to 7-3. Ireland pressurised the hosts into another poor lineout, with O'Connor brilliantly ripping possession away in a tackle.

Neve Jones' swiftness at the breakdown won a relieving penalty as France pressed again. Ireland's tackling accuracy and kick chase were two real positives during the opening quarter, as they gave the opposition little breathing space.

There were few Irish attacking opportunities, although centre Dalton was growing in influence as a ball carrier. A smart Hogan break from a ruck saw her lack support, although a subsequent tackle from the number 8 earned a lineout.

The visitors' lineout was not as reliable as they wanted, and with full-back Lauren Delany coming under more pressure from French kicks, Ireland were forced back on the defensive. O'Connor made a vital challenge to hold up Charlotte Escudero in the 28th minute.

Dalton chased down Romane Menager for a try-saving tackle, before Bourdon Sansus' quick pass was knocked on by prop Deshayes in front of the Irish posts. However, the pressure eventually told with Bourdon Sansus again pulling the strings.

The French half-back cleverly drew a tackle from Wafer and passed back inside for winger Menager to glide through a gap and sidestep around Delany to score. Queyroi's conversion put a dozen points between the sides.

Ireland's lineout faltered soon after, seeing them lose hard-earned ground and McMahon was penalised for obstruction. France took the points on offer in the 37th minute, with Queyroi splitting the posts with her third successful kick.

A Higgins tackle, combined with a Dalton turnover, saw Ireland's defence win out on the stroke of half-time. France began the second period on the front foot, with their offloads sticking more and their maul becoming more of a weapon.

Armed with a penalty advantage from a maul, Romane Menager and Assia Khalfaoui both went close before second row Madoussou Fall reached over from a ruck. Queyroi added the extras for a 24-3 scoreline.

Ireland did have some bright moments on the ball, yet Dalton's side-entry at a ruck ruined some nice interplay between herself and Hogan, while Wafer, who shifted to number 8 following McMahon's departure, charged away from a scrum before the attack unfortunately petered out.

French newcomer Kelly Arbey had a try ruled out for a forward pass, but there was no denying Agathe Sochat from a well-executed lineout drive on the hour mark. Queyroi was also able to convert the bonus point score from the left.

Sharper attacking off a maul inside the French 22 saw Ireland look much more dangerous with ball in hand. Hogan and replacement Sadhbh McGrath punched holes, before a five-metre penalty led to Wafer driving in low to score, with TMO confirmation of the grounding.

Replacement Dannah O'Brien's conversion from close range took Ireland into double figures, and despite France's Elisa Riffonneau rumbling over from a maul effort, ti was Bemand's side who had the final say.

Their swarming defence late on, which would have pleased newly-installed defence coach Declan Danaher, saw Dalton fly up on Lina Tuy and she pounced on the loose ball to score just behind the posts. O'Brien's conversion left the difference at the end at 21 points.

TIME LINE: 2 minutes - France try: Pauline Bourdon Sansus - 5-0; conversion: Lina Queyroi - 7-0; 13 mins - Ireland penalty: Nicole Fowley - 7-3; 31 mins - France try: Marine Menager - 12-3; conversion: Lina Queyroi - 14-3; 37 mins - France penalty: Lina Queyroi - 17-3; Half-time - France 17 Ireland 3; 46 mins - France try: Madoussou Fall - 22-3; conversion: Lina Queyroi - 24-3; 61 mins - France try: Agathe Sochat - 29-3; conversion: Lina Queyroi - 31-3; 70 mins - Ireland try: Aoife Wafer - 31-8; conversion: Dannah O'Brien - 31-10; 74 mins - France try: Elisa Riffonneau - 36-10; conversion: Morgane Bourgeois - 38-10; 76 mins - Ireland try: Aoife Dalton - 38-15; conversion: Dannah O'Brien - 38-17; Full-time - France 38 Ireland 17

FRANCE WOMEN: Émilie Boulard (FFR/Blagnac RF); Kelly Arbey (AOL/Stade Toulousain), Nassira Konde (FFR/Stade Bordelais), Gabrielle Vernier (FFR/Blagnac RF), Marine Menager (FFR/Montpellier HR); Lina Queyroi (FFR/Blagnac RF), Pauline Bourdon Sansus (FFR/Stade Toulousain); Annaëlle Deshayes (FFR/Stade Bordelais), Agathe Sochat (FFR/Stade Bordelais), Assia Khalfaoui (FFR/Stade Bordelais), Manae Feleu (FFR/FC Grenoble Amazones) (capt), Madoussou Fall (FFR/Stade Bordelais), Charlotte Escudero (FFR/Stade Toulousain), Gaëlle Hermet (FFR/Stade Toulousain), Romane Menager (FFR/Montpellier HR).

Replacements used: Morgane Bourgeois (FFR/Stade Bordelais) for M Menager (43 mins), Emeline Gros (FFR/FC Grenoble Amazones) for Fall (50), Ambre Mwayembe (AOL/FC Grenoble Amazones) for Deshayes (55), Alexandra Chambon (FFR/FC Grenoble Amazones) for Bourdon Sansus (60), Elisa Riffonneau (Ealing Trailfinders) for Sochat, Clara Joyeux (FFR/Blagnac RF) for Khalfaoui (both 64), Kiara Zago (AOL/Stade Toulousain) for Feleu (67), Lina Tuy (AOL/ASM Romagnat) for Queyroi (71).

IRELAND WOMEN: Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby); Katie Corrigan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Béibhinn Parsons (Blackrock College/Connacht); Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/Connacht), Aoibheann Reilly (Blackrock College/Connacht); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury), Christy Haney Blackrock College/Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), Hannah O'Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster), Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College/Leinster), Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs) (co-capt), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster).

Replacements used: Dannah O'Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Fowley (half-time), Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby) for McMahon (50 mins), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere/Ulster) for Wall (55), Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke/Ulster) for Haney, Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Leinster) for Reilly (both 62), Méabh Deely (Blackrock College/Connacht) for Corrigan (67), Sarah Delaney (Blackrock College/Leinster) for Wafer, Niamh O'Dowd (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Djougang (both 76).

Referee: Kat Roche (USA)

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