Ireland beat France 38-17 in Marseille to open their 2024 Guinness Six Nations title defence strongly as Joe McCarthy and Jack Crowley perform exceptionally
Ireland defeated France 38 – 17 to get their 2024 Guinness Six Nations title defence off to the perfect start in Marseille this evening.
Dominating from the off, Andy Farrell’s side were a step above their hosts who looked unsure of themselves in the face of relentless Irish pressure.
Paul Willemse put his team under pressure early as he was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous clear-out on Andrew Porter who left the pitch for a HIA.
Jack Crowley showed that he was undeterred by the vocal French crowd as he coolly slotted the penalty to get Ireland on the board first.
Ireland took advantage of having an extra man and scored the first try through scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park, who gleefully accepted the ball following a powerful burst and sublime interplay between Jack Crowley and Bundee Aki.
Thomas Ramos would reply for the hosts ten minutes with a penalty and finally give Les Bleus a foothold in the game after 26 minutes of Irish control.
This joy would be short lived as Tadhg Beirne burst through the French defence to go in under the posts for Ireland’s second try on the 29th minute.
France would stem what had become one way action for a brief moment on the stroke of half-time as Damian Penaud burst over following waves of blue attack. Ramos converted, and suddenly, the hosts were back in the match as they trailed by just seven points as the break.
Mirroring the first half in nearly every way bar the strong French finish, Ireland bossed proceedings throughout the second forty.
Starting with Calvin Nash’s sublimely taken try, which would be the first of three for Ireland in the second half. The visitors, outside of conceding one controversial try to second-row Paul Gabrillagues, were in complete control.
Dan Sheehan scored Ireland’s fourth, which secured the bonus point before his replacement, Ronan Kelleher, rubber-stamped the result by scoring with three minutes to go.
Picking out an individual from what was a mightily impressive Irish showing is tough, but the young dynamic dup of Jack Crowley and Joe McCarthy proved unequivocally that they are building blocks from which Ireland will work for the foreseeable.
McCarthy who is just 22-years-old obliterated the French pack using all of the power in his 6’6” and 120kg frame to great effect. Whilst Crowley proved that he is the Aaron Rodgers to Johnny Sexton’s Brett Favre and looks every bit a top quality test flyhalf.
Speaking post-match head coach Andy Farrell said of the youngsters in the Irish squad, “These are guys who have been in and around the squad for the past number of years. We’ve no doubt that they are ready to play because they show that in training. Some of them have had to be patient and wait, and for some of them, their form guarantees that they are going to be in.
“There were some immense performances but it is a 23-man game and those youngsters are able to be themselves, and be the best confident selves because of how they make each other feel. That’s the whole squad.”
Referencing Crowley directly, the Ireland head coach was impressed with his young playmaker.
“He had some nice touches but there will be some stuff that he will be looking at and reviewing and getting better at as well. I thought he managed the game pretty well and he was nice and composed at the end.” Farrell said.
Looking ahead to the rest of the Championship, Farrell was quick to point out that his team will not be getting ahead of themselves.
“It’s a good start. We have Italy next and getting off to a good start was always going to be a tough ask here. We’ve done that now so we need to grow off the back of it.”
Next up for Ireland is a match with Italy in Dublin whilst France will need to regather themselves ahead of a challenging trip to Edinburgh to face Scotland.