Ireland 30 France 21 Declan Kidney's Ireland are up and running as one of the favorites for the elusive RBS Six Nations title and even the Grand Slam itself after a thrilling 30-21 win Croke Park win over France on Saturday. Man of the match Jamie Heaslip, captain Brian O'Driscoll and comeback hero Gordon D'Arcy scored the tries that mattered as the home team finally beat the French for the first time in eight games. Not since the 2003 Six Nations game at Lansdowne Road had an Ireland side tasted such a win in the five championship fixtures and two World Cup games that have followed. That partly explains why the fans went home sweating with delight on a bitterly cold Saturday night, but just as impressive was the nature of the Irish performance. And the hope offered by the new era under Kidney was never more apparent that in the final minutes when a late Beauxis penalty drew the French within six points of their hosts. Just two years ago France broke Irish hearts with a last gasp try on the same pitch, but this time Ireland went up the other end, Heaslip won a crucial penalty and O'Gara slotted over the three points that guaranteed a home win. "The way we reacted after that last drop goal from Beauxis typified that this team learnt a lot two years ago," said captain O'Driscoll afterwards. "We didn't give up easily, we hunted them down and Jamie got a steal on the penalty and Rog popped it over. That gave us breathing space and proved there was a little bit of knowledge in the team when it came down to it. "France were big opposition today and that was a big penalty. On the whole it is a very pleasing result." France came to Dublin determined to play an open, expansive game that was a joy to watch, but for once they found their match in a passionate Irish side. The visitors grabbed a brilliant first try of the game through Harinordoquy, but the response from Kidney's team was exceptional as Heaslip's stunning burst for the try line just before the break helped them to a 13-10 interval lead. O'Driscoll then led by example with a great break for Ireland's second try on 43 minutes before Medard offered the French hope as he caught a Beauxis kick to score in the corner. What followed was quite sensational as a Gordon D'Arcy dance through the French defense led to celebrations for his comeback try in his first Irish game since he broke his arm against Italy this time last year. A Beauxis drop goal then left just six points between the teams - 27 to 21 - with only minutes remaining before O'Gara brought his tally to 15 points for the day with the final and vital penalty. The victory leaves Ireland third in the Six Nations table, level on points with Wales and England after their wins over Scotland and Italy respectively, and has whetted talk of a Grand Slam attempt this season, even if O'Driscoll was keen to downplay such expectation. "You can't win the Six Nations in the first game of the season but you can lose it I suppose," said captain O'Driscoll. "What we have got here is a one game and one win momentum that will carry us into the next match with some confidence. "It is a win against France and it is a win against top class opposition but let's not get carried away with expectation now. "We are where we want to be. We have played one game in the Six Nations and we have won it which we will enjoy tonight but that's it. "We will be back to work tomorrow and back to getting on with the Italy game next Sunday, simple as that." Coach Kidney was just as realistic as his skipper after his first competitive win, but he did allow himself to enjoy a very special moment in his coaching career. "It is a great day when any Irish team gets the better of France," admitted a smiling Kidney. "It is a great day and one to be enjoyed by everyone working with the team and everyone who has worked with teams at all levels across the country down the years. "Everyone should enjoy occasions like this. It is a privilege to be here and I am delighted for the players. As I keep saying, it is not about me. These guys have a huge amount of pride in their jersey, they put in a huge amount of work and for once a few things went our way this time. "I feel they have been a little bit unlucky in some recent games but things went our way today and I hope we have moved on. We are always trying to make progress and this will add to our confidence. "We still have a lot of hard work to do and four hard games ahead of us but this will make training a bit easier this week." Ireland: Kearney; Bowe, B. O'Driscoll (capt), P. Wallace, Fitzgerald; O'Gara, O'Leary; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Ferris, D. Wallace, Heaslip. Replacements: R. Best for Flannery 49 mins, D'Arcy for Wallace 63 mins, Murphy for Kearney 79 mins, Leamy for Ferris 79 mins. France: Poitrenaud; Malzieu, Fritz, Jauzion, Medard; Beauxis, Tillous-Borde; Faure, Szarzewski, Lecouls, Chabal, Nallet; Dusautoir, Ouedraogo, Harinordoquy. Replacements: Kayser for Szarzewski 58 mins, Mas for Lecouls 40 mins, Millo-Chluski for Chabal 62 mins, Parra for Tillous-Borde 68 mins, Picamoles for Harinordoquy 71 mins.
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