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Gritty Ireland hold their nerve to win a tight match

Ireland 27 France 22

By Staff Reporter

The Ireland Under-20s again showed their capacity to win a tight game as they prevailed 27-22 in a Six Nations contest with France at Donnybrook.

Nigel Carolan's side killed off France's second-half revival with a closing 74th-minute penalty from out-half Bill Johnston, who had a perfect return off the tee for a 12-point haul.

Three first-half tries from Tadgh McElroy, man of the match Tommy O'Brien and Oisin Dowling had the hosts leading 21-10 at half-time, with Faraj Fartass responding for the French.

Johnston book-ended an attritional second half with two crucial penalties, and although the visitors did set up a grandstand finish with Fartass' second effort and a penalty try, Carolan's charges stayed in front to seal their third 2017 win and make it a record-equalling six successive Six Nations victories for Ireland at this age-grade.

Hooker McElroy barged over from a metre out and Johnston converted for good measure. Good French build-up play was rewarded with a penalty goal from Romain Ntamack, but Ireland cancelled those three points out with a neatly-taken seven-pointer from centre O'Brien.

Second row Dowling got his hand on a ball that had gone over the French line and forced a try. Johnston converted for a 21-3 scoreline.

France, though, succeeded in hitting back through Fartass. Ntamack's conversion went over.

Johnston hit a well-struck penalty for 24-10 after the restart but Fartass soon had another try.

Three successive set-piece penalties saw referee Tom Foley award a 72nd-minute penalty try to Les Bleuets but Ireland gave themselves a five-point cushion just a couple of minutes later with another Johnston penalty.

Towards the end, Caelan Doris held possession to the final whistle as Carolan's youngsters kept hold of second place - behind England - in the table.

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