Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 20 News List

French fly past the Irish; England wins

QUARTERFINALS The match was the last for captain Keith Wood, who announced his retirement after the contest following a series of shoulder injuries this year

AP , MELBOURNE ANDBRISBANE AUSTRALIA

France's Imanol Harinordoquy scores a try as Ireland's Simon Easterby looks on during their quarterfinal World Cup match at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

France used its impressive flair and speed to overwhelm Ireland with 27 unanswered points in the first half on its way to a 43-21 win and a semifinal berth at the Rugby World Cup.

France, which ran through its pool matches with a perfect 4-0 record and was rarely tested, showed it was a definite threat for its first World Cup, scoring four tries.

France will play the winner of the England-Wales quarterfinal -- to be played later Sunday in Brisbane -- in next Sunday's semifinal in Sydney.

Australia and New Zealand will play in the other semifinal next Saturday. The winners of each semifinal will play in the final on Nov. 22 in Sydney.

The match was the last for 32-year-old hooker and Irish captain Keith Wood, who announced his retirement after the contest following a succession of shoulder injuries over the past year.

"I've had lots of great days, I'm hanging up the boots" said Wood. "I think being involved in this World Cup, this group of players, was very special.

"This has been a highlight. It's unfortunate it ended on a downer, but such is life."

Flyhalf Frederic Michalak set up France's first try by flanker Olivier Magne and kicked four conversions and five penalties -- nine from nine attempts -- for 23 points and increase his tournament-leading points total to 101.

Winger Christophe Dominici, No. 8 Imanol Harinordoquy and prop Jean Jacques Crenca scored the other French tries. Center Kevin Maggs scored Ireland's first try in the 52nd minute, his 14th in tests and first in a World Cup match, and center Brian O'Driscoll added Ireland's final two tries, his second on fulltime.

"We couldn't get out of our own half, they were all over us," said Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan. "We didn't really know what hit us. They completely out-muscled us out front. Today was a tough day."

"Full credit to the French, they took their opportunities -- they finished the little gaps they made for themselves," added O'Driscoll.

Michalak kicked downfield to start Magne's opening try. The ball was taken by Harinordoquy, who passed off eventually to Magne who scored in the third minute.

A mistake by Ireland in the French end resulted in France's second try. A missed pass was taken by Magne, who passed along to hooker Raphael Ibanez and flanker Serge Betsen before Dominici went over for a try.

Harinordoquy scored the third French try in the 33rd minute and Michalak's third conversion of the half put France up 24-0 before Michalak's second penalty gave France its 27-0 halftime lead.

Michalak added his third penalty two minutes after halftime to put France up 30-0 and the French continued the dominance that they had displayed before halftime.

Crenca scored in the corner to put France ahead 35-0 in the 48th minute that included a flick pass from Magne to Harinordoquy, and Michalak again hit the conversion.

Ireland finally scored when Maggs ran around two French defenders after a pass from Wood.

Ibanez was given a yellow card and sent off in the 64th minute for continued infractions at the ruck, despite being warned several times by South African referee Jonathan Kaplan.

It took Ireland just one minute with an extra man to score its second try when O'Driscoll took a perfectly weighted kick from Wood and touched down.

It was O'Driscoll's 20th test try, and he added his second of the night in the final minute of play.

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