The Ireland Rugby Legends made a triumphant return to the World Rugby Classic after beating France Classic Rugby 24-10 at North Field yesterday.
Although it has been 25 years since the Irish graced the annual festival, the majority of their group are well versed in the rigours of the Classic having previously represented the Classic Lions.
With a team boasting the likes of former internationals Shane Byrne, Andy Ward and Trevor Brennan, Ireland grew with confidence as the game wore on and will now meet Rugby Canada in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
Ireland started brightly enough, but it was France who opened the scoring, soaking up plenty of early pressure before springing an attack through try scorer Alexandre Lacroix.
Anthony Lagardere, the scrum half, kicked the conversion. It did not take long for the Irish to level, with Simon Keogh powering through the middle before feeding fellow wing Fionn Carr for a free run to the line. A superb kick from the near the sideline by Gary Brown added the extra two points.
Ireland’s constant pressure paid off before the break as they nudged ahead after back row Des Dillon crashed over for his side’s second try, with the radar-like boot of Brown kicking the conversation.
France reduced the deficit early in the second half after Lagardere kicked a penalty to make it 14-10, but Brown gave the Irish some breathing space with a penalty of his own, making amends for an earlier miss.
Ireland made sure of the win with a “comfort try” after Carr intercepted before sprinting half the length of the field for his second of the game.
Len Dineen, the Ireland manager, said he was relieved his side had come through their first test unscathed.
“To come here and not win the first game makes it a very, very tough week, so we’re absolutely delighted,” he said.
“France didn’t make it easy, which we knew they wouldn’t, and we got a good interception at the end to get that comfort try.”
Dineen said his squad benefited from being stocked with bundles of Classic experience.
“It’s a tough week, a fantastic week, and a lot of us have been here before with the Classic Lions,” he added. “We just wanted to come here and do ourselves proud. I think we did that by winning the first game.
“We will have a few beers tonight and tomorrow and then look forward to the semi-final.
“Nearly everyone has been here before, although we have a few debutants and we will get them singing a few songs tonight!”