France outclassed Ireland for the second time in seven days with a convincing 26-22 win in a World Cup warm-up on Saturday, ending their preparations on a high and leaving Ireland needing to regroup after a third successive defeat.
After a weak opening, France scored 26 unanswered points, including tries from fullback Cedric Heymans and flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc on either side of the interval.
Scrumhalf Morgan Parra kicked 13 points and was named man of the match.
Ireland dominated the first 20 minutes with a debut try from prop Cian Healy and a penalty from flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, but lost their momentum and were punished for sloppy play.
A late surge produced two consolation tries in the last five minutes from Sexton and flanker Sean O’Brien, but Ireland never looked like they could overturn France’s lead.
Ireland, already near full strength, will have to try to bounce back against England in the last of their four warm-up games on Saturday. They will need a confidence boost if they want to get past Australia and a resurgent Italy in the group stage to reach their first quarter-final for eight years.
“It wasn’t what we wanted, but we need to learn from it, but are we concerned? Not really. Little things can have a huge effect on Test matches,” Ireland coach Declan Kidney said.
Ireland’s World Cup preparations were further dented when promising fullback Felix Jones, making his first start for the team, was carried off the pitch after injuring his foot.
Kidney said there was no break, but his ligaments might be damaged.
Ireland looked good early on when Sexton opened the scoring with a penalty in the second minute. A sustained bout of pressure allowed Healy to surge past Parra across the line for his first score for Ireland.
Things began to unravel after Sexton missed his conversion and sloppy play by Ireland allowed Parra to pull France back into the game with a penalty that was followed by a 48m drop-goal from flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc.
France stepped up a gear and went into the lead when center Aurelia Rougerie sliced through a confused Ireland defense and fed fullback Haymans, who touched down near the posts, giving Parra an easy conversion.
A mistimed tackle by Keith Earls gave Parra another chance to slot over, leaving the score 16-8 at halftime.
France extended their lead in the 45th minute with a penalty after right wing Andrew Trimble played the ball offside.
A wild pass by Ireland scrumhalf Tomas O’Leary was intercepted by Trinh-Duc, who galloped over the line. Parra converted to take France to 26 points.
Ireland salvaged some pride when Sexton and O’Brien crossed the line in the 75th and 80th minutes and reserve flyhalf Ronan O’Gara slotted over two conversions.
WALES 28, ARGENTINA 13
Wales ensured they would be leaving for the World Cup in good spirits with a 28-13 victory over Argentina on Saturday in their final warm-up game.
A slow first half came alive in the last four minutes when Andy Powell and Alun Wyn Jones scored tries in quick succession, with James Hook adding the conversions to give the hosts a 14-3 lead at the break at the Millennium Stadium.
The Pumas had led through a Felipe Contepomi penalty in a game where players were out to impress their coaches before today’s deadline for naming their final 30-man World Cup squads.
Mistakes crept in for a tired-looking Argentina as Hook kicked Wales further ahead, before George North powered through for the third try.
Hook missed the conversion — the only blot on his copybook — before Argentina muscled their way through for a Martin Scelzo try that was converted by Contepomi, who had earlier kicked another penalty.
Hook added a final penalty with the last kick of the game to add fuel to calls for coach Warren Gatland to make him his first-choice No. 10.
SCOTLAND 23, ITALY 12
Scotland beat Italy 23-12 in a lively encounter as both teams fine-tuned their game in a final warm-up match before next month’s World Cup.
The hosts notched tries through Alasdair Dickinson (10 minutes) and Mike Blair (52 minutes) at Murrayfield, with Italy also crossing the line twice thanks to Tommaso Benvenuti (24 minutes) and Fabio Semenzato (49 minutes) scoring their first five-pointers in international rugby.
Scotland flyhalf Dan Parks made the difference with two conversions and three penalties in a starting lineup that featured 14 changes to the team that overcame Ireland earlier this month.
Andy Robinson’s defense were also superbly disciplined and Mirco Bergamasco missed Italy’s only penalty, which would have put the Azzurri level at 10-10 just before the break.
The two sides showed off some rare attacking flair, with Benvenuti’s try especially easy on the eye after two great offloads in the tackle.
Blair’s touchdown was scruffy in contrast, with the scrumhalf charging down Andrea Masi’s kick close to the line.
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