Ireland’s dreams of winning back to back RBS Women’s Six Nations Championships ended when they went down to France on Friday night.
Philip Doyle’s side put up a spirited display at the Stade du Hameau in Pau but couldn’t stop the French from winning the Grand Slam.
The hosts went ahead courtesy of a fifth minute try from Marion Lievre and pressed Ireland, who defended magnificently, for the remainder of the half.
At the break, France were 5-0 up but added a second try in the opening stages of the second half when Elodie Portaries touched down and Sandrine Agricole converted for 12-0.
After Niamh Briggs got Ireland on the board with a 49th minute penalty, France extended their lead out to 19-3 when Shannon Izar got in between the posts and Agricole converted.
Ireland refused to lie down, though, and Gillian Bourke got on the end of a great Irish maul to make her the first person to score a try against France in the competition.
Then, on 72 minutes Bourke came in behind another progressive maul for another try. Briggs converted to make it 19-15.
France had only conceded six points going into the contest in their opening four encounters with a score difference of +137 and were the only team still in with a chance of winning the Grand Slam that was won by Ireland last year.
Ireland had six points with a score difference of +99, which means to have any chance of winning the championship they had to win by 20 points or more to usurp France’s top spot.
Nora Stapleton from Fahan was fly-half and Larissa Muldoon from Cappry lined out at scrum half having scored Ireland’s try in the narrow 17-10 loss against England at Twickenham.
Ireland started with a 59-0 win over Scotland in Ashbourne, Co Meath, before coming through 14-6 against Wales at the same venue.
Replacement full-back Jackie Shiels from Navan, Co Meath, is the daughter of Sarah McGinty and the niece of Charley McGinty, Townawilly, outside Donegal Town.
Ireland will return to France in August for the Women’s Rugby World Cup where they are in a pool with New Zealand, Kazakstan and the United States.