IRELAND vs FRANCE
ST PATRICK’S COLLEGE, BALLARAT WEDNESDAY AUGUST 9th 12.30pm
By SIMEON SWAIN and EDWARD BOURKE
Ireland have continued their impressive start to the International Cup, shaking off a spirited France to win by 65 points at St Patrick’s College in the inaugural Schools Round.
St Patrick’s is well-known for producing AFL players with recent draftees including Matthew and Brad Crouch (Adelaide), Daniel Rioli and Dan Butler (Richmond) and Tom Williamson (Carlton).
The Warriors felt a historical connection with the venue, with shamrocks accompanying the school emblems on the wings as the school recognised their Irish heritage. Their drive to impress the large assembly of schoolboys was evident from the outset, but France were again able to withstand a barrage of early pressure to restrict the margin to just 8 points at quarter time.
With former Geelong Cats rookie Padraig Lucey threatening to blow the game apart, defenders Fabien Floch and Cyrille Gandolfo were terrific early in cutting off Ireland’s forward entries, while co- captain Sylvain Maylie desperately ran down his opponent to save a goal.
However, the tense stand-off between the two goalless sides came to an end when Gavin Murray found Lucey inside the forward 50, who converted his set shot to give Ireland a slight buffer at the first break.
Muiris Bartley was significant in the first quarter and the combination of Patrick Brennan and David McElhone worked brilliantly at the stoppages.
Floch went toe-to-toe with Lucey, undoubtedly the most difficult match-up in the competition, for much of the second quarter but the tall Irishman broke away to have three goals to his name at half- time.
Warriors coach Brian Currane said that their next two opponents, Great Britain and New Zealand, would look at other tactics to handle Lucey.
However, he said that the most important thing for the Irish was to “make sure we play to our structures, take time with our setups and work hard in support.”
At the half, the Warriors had 14 inside 50s to a single entry from Les Coqs, but a resurgent France fought back in the third quarter to provide an entertaining display of their abilities.
A clever knock-on from Maxime Favero found Jacob Raiwalui in space, and the big left-footer hammered home his first goal of the tournament from 50m to open France’s account.
Soon after the in-form Anthony Girard took a strong contested mark at half-forward and found Jeremy Sardin in the pocket, who emphatically threaded home a goal that further elevated the intensity of the French side.
Despite the enormous passion on display from Les Coqs, the more experienced Irish side had the legs to burst away in the last quarter, with new recruit Shane O’Sullivan carrying on his great form with some incisive rebounding off half-back.
Liam Burns had a breakout game, kicking two majors, one of which was a sensational running goal 40m out on the wrong boundary for a right-footer.
Ireland closed out the game strongly, emerging victors 11.13.79 to 2.2.14.
French coach Andrew Unsworth was disappointed with the last quarter but recognized the excellent improvement shown by his side.
“We were mindful of their big talls and tried to play a possession game and not bomb the ball, which we did pretty well. I thought our pressure was really good all day too, we didn’t give them any time with the ball”.
The high-intensity game took a toll on the players, with Ludo Barrat heavily concussed in the first quarter and several other players taking big hits.
Vincent Monnier was recognised as France’s best player, while Patrick Brennan was awarded the St Patrick’s Medal for best on ground by the College Head of Sport, Gavin Webb.
Ireland will next play Great Britain on Saturday afternoon at Koornang Park, while France will be determined to open their tournament account against former semi-finalists Nauru on Saturday morning in Kew.
Hawthorn-based midfielder Arnaud Bonhoste said the French side should compete strongly against Nauru.
“The score doesn’t reflect how much we’ve improved from the Fiji game. We contested strongly all day and we didn’t let them play the game they wanted to play.”
IRELAND 11.13. (79) def.
FRANCE 2.3. (15)
IRELAND P.Lucey 3, P. Brennan 2, L. Burns 2, M. Bartley, C. Lordan, D. Mcelhone, D. Nannery FRANCE J. Raiwalui, J. Sardin
IRELAND P. Brennan, P. Lucey, P. O’Halloran, S. O’Sullivan, D. Fogarty, M. Bartley
FRANCE V. Monnier, F. Floch, M Ostorero, A. Bernad, C. Bouchet, J. Sardin