Rugby Digest: Victory eludes Irish in France
Ireland didn’t lose in Paris for the first time in 12 years, but try telling that to the players who trooped off the Stade de France pitch with dejection as their best friend on Sunday evening after a 17-17 draw.
A brave first half performance gave way to a battling second half defensive display as Ireland drew a game they could have won and might have lost.
Two Tommy Bowe tries, one described by Irish rugby legend Tony Ward as the best he has ever seen from a team in green, and seven points from the boot of Jonathon Sexton helped the visitors to a 17-6 interval lead.
But this was not to be Ireland’s day as they sought a first win over French soil since Brian O’Driscoll scored a hat-trick of tries back in 2000.
O’Driscoll, injured and watching on TV back home in Dublin, was hardly missed as Ireland took the re-arranged game to their French hosts three weeks after it was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
The Irish were on fire in that opening half and then stood up to everything France could have thrown at them in a crazy second period when a Wesley Fofana try and two penalties from Morgan Parra pulled the Blues level.
Both sides had chances to win it in a frantic final five minutes, but ultimately the draw was the fairest result even if it does neither team any good in championship terms.
“I was interviewed after the game and they said, ‘You must be happy with that result,’ but it’s a pretty hard pill to swallow,” Irish flanker Jamie Heaslip said afterwards.
“We came here to win and outscored France two tries to one, so to draw is a mixed bag. It’s frustrating. We were confident at halftime. We’ll look at the penalties, some of them we might agree with, some of them we might not.
“The self-belief was there, it’s always there. We don’t doubt ourselves.”
Even Bowe was reluctant to celebrate his two try haul on a day that might have produced so much more for the visitors.
“I’m delighted to score against France, tries against them aren’t easy to come by so to get over twice in one day is very satisfying,” the 28-year-old said after his 23rd and 24th international tries on his 47th cap.
“But of course you would hope to get a victory out of it, but unfortunately we didn’t. In the second half
I barely touched the ball which is a huge disappointment. It’s bittersweet.”
Captain Paul O’Connell, who picked up a knee injury that has ruled him out of the remaining two games, was just as dejected.
“There’s certainly a big feeling of defeat and an opportunity lost,” said O’Connell. “We’re very frustrated and very disappointed.
“We scored an intercept try and one really good, well worked try. We then conceded a really soft, poor try and we’re really disappointed with our second-half performance.”
Ireland: Kearney; Bowe, Earls, D’Arcy, Trimble; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Ferris, O’Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: Ryan for O’Callaghan 58 mins; Reddan for Murray 59 mins; O’Mahony for O’Brien 66 mins; O’Gara for D’Arcy 71 mins; McFadden for Trimble 73 mins; Cronin for Best 75 mins; Court for Healy 75 mins.
ROB Kearney has told his Irish teammates to forget Paris and put all their energies into beating Scotland at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.
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