Joey carbery
Ireland's Joey Carbery in action against France. INPHO/BILLY STICKLAND

Ireland show potential in Paris defeat

France 30; Ireland 24

Head Coach Andy Farrell has Ireland on a different trajectory to any of his predecessors in that the evolution of the team is about attaining optimum performance for the upcoming World Cup next year rather than the current Six Nations, which had been the be-all and end-all for Joe Schmidt, Declan Kidney, Eddie O’Sullivan and everyone else before that too.

So to judge Saturday’s defeat as the end of the season would be inaccurate and foolish at the same time. Yes, a victory would have been a fillip for everybody connected with or following the team but sometimes we learn more from our defeats and the hope is this will be the case after our bonus point loss at the Stade de France.

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Cyril Baille of France scores a try.  INPHO/DAVE WINTER

Cyril Baille of France scores a try. INPHO/DAVE WINTER

With home advantage and a big win over the All Blacks from the tail-end of last year, France were strong favorites not just to win but to  force the Irish team into submission in this encounter.

Ireland too had shown their potential against the Kiwis but not with the same swagger as the French.

And the start of the game suggested that Les Bleus would trample all over us as they not only scored a second minute try but forced several penalties against us which had us on the back foot for the majority of the first half.

Only Mack Hansen’s sensational restart try where the Aussie showed great Gaelic football skills to catch at full sprint over his head and touch down for a try which silenced the highly partisan crowd, if only momentarily.

You felt the loss of Johnny Sexton in that first 40 minutes despite the best effort of his replacement Joey Carbery behind a beaten pack.

The hosts were 19-7 ahead at  half-time with Antoine Dupont’s try and general play dictating the trend of the game.

Ireland's captain James Ryan speaking after the match INPHO/BILLY STICKLAND

Ireland's captain James Ryan speaking after the match INPHO/BILLY STICKLAND

Those who were thinking  negatively though had to change their view as Ireland came out for the second half determined to make up for their poor first half showing. Flanker Josh van der Flier  powered over for a great try and when impish scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park  ferreted his way over for a second beside the post, Ireland were only a point behind 22-21 with half an hour still to play.

And while they failed to kick on and do the job properly, there were chances to do so as the French pack found it hard to live with the dynamism Ireland had injected into their play. Carbery kicked well and when you consider that this was his first time to start a Six Nations match, you have to factor that in as he steadily improved in his general play.

Even when Uini Atonio opened the Irish cover to allowCyril Baille stretched over for a third French try, Ireland were not out of the contest. When they had a penalty, Carbery successfully shot for goal to reduce the deficit to three. But If Sexton instead of the less experienced James Ryan was calling the shots, that penalty would have been aimed at the corner with the hope of getting seven points instead of three.

These are the little things defeats teach us – which is why this narrow loss (France got another penalty which they converted to win by six) may prove a blessing in disguise when we enter the biggest stage in the game’s itinerary – The World Cup.

Ireland: H Keenan; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, M Hansen; J Carbery, J Gibson Park; A Porter, R Kelleher, T Furlong; T Beirne, J Ryan (capt); C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan Replacements: D Sheehan, C Healy, F Bealham, I Henderson, P O'Mahony, C Murray, J Carty, R Henshaw.

Ref: Angus Gardner (Aus).

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