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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 09:21 GMT
France blast past Ireland
Imanol Harinordoquy
France 43
Tries: Magne, Dominici, Harinordoquy, Crenca
Cons: Michalak (4)
Pens: Michalak (5)
Ireland 21
Tries: Maggs, O'Driscoll (2)
Cons: Humphreys (3)

France 43-21 Ireland

France decimated Ireland with a devastating display of 15-man rugby in Melbourne.

Les Bleus were too athletic, too fast, too well-organised and too eager for a bewildered Ireland who lacked the necessary firepower either up front or behind the scrum.

The French stormed to a 27-0 lead at half-time and amassed four tries in all to Ireland's three.

Olivier Magne, Christophe Dominici, Imanol Harinordoquy and Jean-Jacques Crenca all crossed for France, while stand-off Frederic Michalak kicked 23 points.

Ireland clawed back some pride as France slacked off in the second half, with tries from Kevin Maggs and two from Brian O'Driscoll.

But Bernard Laporte's men, runners-up at the last World Cup, laid down a ominous marker for the rest of the tournament as they await England in the semi-final.

We won't make any excuses - we tried our damndest but it didn't come off
Ireland captain Keith Wood

France set off at a furious pace from the outset and crossed Ireland's line within five minutes after Magne scored from Michalak's high kick.

Ireland were shell-shocked and under extreme early pressure as winger Aurelien Rougerie went close to another score, only to put a foot in touch.

Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll then made a crucial last-gasp tackle on a flying Tony Marsh, all within the first 12 minutes.

Keith Wood's men did manage to find some modicum of composure and at least staunched the blue waves for a few moments before Michalak added another penalty.

But Irish morale slumped further when their own promising attack fell down in midfield and France broke clear from their own 22 to set up winger Dominici for a stunning score.

Number eight Harinordoquy added another try before the break, and supplied the scoring pass as loose-head prop Crenca scored France's fourth inside the first 10 minutes of the second period.

The game was over as a contest but Ireland finally got on the scoreboard with a bludgeoning run from centre Maggs.

The second half was more difficult because we were tired, but it's okay - I am very happy for French football and for our country
France captain Fabien Galthie

Irish tails were immediately lifted and they went close again soon after, only to be repelled on the line by a combination of formidable defence and poor handling.

France were hampered by the loss of hooker Raphael Ibanez for 10 minutes inside the last quarter for knocking the ball out of Peter Stringer's hands while on the floor.

And Ireland pounced for another try when O'Driscoll raced through to get a touch on replacement fly-half David Humphrey's grubber kick.

O'Driscoll also wrestled his way over for a third Irish try on the whistle.

But it was merely papering over the cracks as France had done all the work and were coasting into the last four.

France: N Brusque; A Rougerie, T Marsh, Y Jauzion, C Dominici; F Michalak, F Galthie (capt); J-J Crenca, R Ibanez, S Marconnet, F Pelous, J Thion, S Betsen, O Magne, I Harinordoquy.
Replacements: Y Bru, O Millou, O Brouzet, P Tabacco, G Merceron, B Liebenberg, P Elhorga.

Ireland: G Dempsey, S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, K Maggs, J Kelly; R O'Gara, P Stringer; R Corrigan, K Wood (capt), J Hayes; M O'Kelly, P O'Connell; S Easterby, K Gleeson, V Costello.
Replacements: S Byrne, M Horan, D O'Callaghan, E Miller, G Easterby, D Humphreys, A Horgan.

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