Ireland Errors Prove Costly in Avignon: Rugby League

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Bumper crowd in Avignon witnessed France and Ireland clash in the opening game of the Alitalia European Cup.

An Olivier Elima hat-trick helped France to a 56-25 win over a defiant Wolfhounds side despite the Irish taking the lead early on.

Ireland started the game ambitiously passing the ball wide twice in the first set and nearly broke through when Scott Grix fed his brother Simon who broke two tackles before he knocked on in the tackle.

The French on the other hand looked to keep it in the forwards as they completed two sets without breaking the Irish defence.

It took just seven minutes for the scoring to be opened when Scott Grix spotted an overlap on the right hand side of the pitch and once more hooked up with his brother who made huge strides into the French half and linked with Liam Finn to find Sean Hesketh who crashed over the whitewash. Greg McNally calmly slotted over conversion to put Ireland 6-0 up.

It wasn’t long before France responded when they made the most of a John Gillam knock. Remi Casty crashed over from close range. Maxime Greseque added the extras to level the game at 6-6 with twelve minutes gone.

France took the lead on sixteen minutes when neat back play put Teddy Sadaoui over Ireland’s line. Greseque once more converted his kick to bring the score to 12-6 in favour of the hosts.

Two penalties in quick succession pinned Ireland back on their try line and Cyril Stacul forced his way over the line for France’s third try in a ten minute period. Another Greseque conversion, this time from the sideline made the score line 18-6.

Straight from the restart Tony Gigot found a massive hole in Ireland’s defence to set up Elima for his second. The conversion made the score 24-6 with just twenty four minutes gone.

Matt Ashe was introduced and he immediately made an impact with a superb twenty forty to set Ireland up with a great chance of pulling France back and that’s just what they did when John Gillam slipped over for his first Irish try. McNally missed the kick leaving the score at 24-10 to the French.

Jamie O’Callaghan then got in on the act as he bagged a try on debut when he latched onto a superb Liam Finn pass to power over. McNally once more put the conversion wide but the score was now closer at 24-14.

Ireland had a try chalked off with two minutes left in the half as McNally was deemed to be ahead of Simon Grix when he slid the ball through the French defence. This left the game at 24-14 to the French at the break.

France started the second half with a score as Scott Grix once more tried to find his brother who dropped the ball into the hands of Gigot who ran in untouched to bring the score to 30-14 thanks to a Nicolas Munoz conversion.

Ireland fought back straight away but once more an unforced error gave the ball back to Les Blues.

With fifty minutes on the clock Andrew Bentley crashed over to extend France’s lead even further. Munoz’s conversion brought the score to 36-14.

France made it forty when Elima went over for his second of the day once more Munoz added the extras.

Jason Baiteri then got in on the act when once more a penalty forced Ireland back. Baiteri smashed over from close range.

With the score a 48-14 it was looking bleak for Ireland who had not scored since he first half. But to their credit they continued to push the French.

Ireland’s error count was plain to see on the score board as all but one of the French tries resulted from either a penalty or a knock on.

With ten minutes left on the clock Ireland got their first score of the second half when Gillam bagged his second of the game. Another missed conversion left the score line at 48-18.

Scott Grix then created another try when he off loaded to Bob Beswick who then found McNally in acres of space. The full back cantered home and Liam Finn added the conversion to give the scoreboard a more respectable look at 48-24.

However, France weren’t finished and with five minutes left on the clock Elima bagged his hat trick to extend his sides lead.

He then added his fourth with one minute on the clock to round off the scoring at 58-24 in favour of France thanks to yet another Munoz conversion.

In the end France deserved the win but Ireland will be disappointed with the errors they made throughout the game.

France: Cyril Stacul, Frederic Vaccari, Jean-Philippe Baile, Teddy Sadaoui, Vincent Duport, Tony Gigot, Maxime Greseque, Jamal Fakir, Kane Bentley, Remi Casty, Olivier Elima, Julian Touxagas, Jason Baiteri Interchange: Andrew Bentley, Mathieu Griffi, Michael Simon, Nicolas Munoz

Ireland: Greg McNally, Tim Bergin, Simon Grix, Jamie O’Callaghan, John Gillam, Scott Grix, Liam Finn, Michael Hayley, Bob Beswick, Brett McDermott, Sean Hesketh, Luke Ambler, Matthew Fox Interchange: Brendan Guilfoyle, Joe Taylor, Wayne Kerr, Matt Ashe
Final Score: 58-24
Referee: Phil Bentham (UK)

Attendance: 14,522

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