Ireland vs France Match Report
Posted on Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 08:53 AM
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Ireland: L Fitzgerald (Leinster); F McFadden (Leinster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster)
France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); Y Huget (Bayonne), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), D Traille (Biarritz), M Medard (Toulouse); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne); T Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), W Servat (Toulouse), N Mas (Perpignan), J Pierre (Clermont Auvergne), L Nallet (Racing Metro), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz)
Ireland welcomed back Jamie Heaslip to the starting lineup to face France in the only personnel change from the narrow victory in Rome. The Irish were still missing the likes of Stephen Ferris, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Geordan Murphy.
France came into the game on the back of a convincing opening day victory against the Scots as the whole team had outmatched their noticeably weaker opposition.
Ireland had all but erased the memories of last week's poor performance in Rome after the first few minutes. From the initial kickoff Ireland set the tone when Julien Pierre was forced over the touchline from a great Sexton kick. The following line-out gave Ireland a platform from which they stretched the french defense with good offensive series. Sean O'Brien and David Wallace physicality was on show early while Sexton was commanding the offense admirably. Gordon D'Arcy sent Luke Fitzgerald over the line but play was called back for a forward pass. The call only served to give the French a short respite as a knock on inside the French 22 was turned into a burrowing try for young Fergus McFadden. Ireland 7-0 France.
The French were noticeably rocked as Damien Traille's ensuing dropout nearly went backwards.
Ireland couldn't capitalize further and the French settled thanks to their pack. After winning a penalty at midfield in a scrum they drove to just outside the Irish 22 before being stopped by impressive Irish defending. Ultimately David Wallace was penalized for not releasing in the tackle and Morgan Parra curled home the penalty to make it Ireland 7-3 France.
Ireland obviously had a gameplan in attack as they kept sending Sexton on the loop outside O'Driscoll. It was a play that was working well for the backline as opportunities kept presenting themselves in wide areas. Fergus McFadden's knock on prevented them from taking advantage of the chance but the pack bailed him out with a huge scrummage to win a penalty for Ireland. Sexton converted a difficult kick to make it 10-3.
The fast pace of both sides was making for a hugely entertaining game.
The Irish pack was dominating their opposition but mistakes in the backline were allowing the French to keep in touch. An errant pass from Sexton afforded Parra another shot at goal which he duly obliged to convert. Ireland 10-6 France.
The French were quickly turning momentum in their favor as their wingers showed of their incendiary pace forcing a penalty concession from the Irish again in a similar position to the last. Parra was striking the ball convincingly and he split the posts once again. Ireland 10-9 France.
A scrappy few minutes of play eventually resulted in a harsh penalty near midfield against Donnacha O'Callaghan. Parra continued his sweet striking as he cleared the cross bar from a distance with ease. Ireland 10-12 France. Ireland were the causes of their own downfall early on with a flurry of knock ons and unforced errors sacrificing their initial lead.
Things were looking ominous for Ireland now as France began to flow. Clement Poitrenaud nearly scored after a move from deep resulted in a chip over Luke Fitzgerald's head that just went over the sideline.
However Ireland were the ones in position to score before the half. A predetermined line-out move sent Tomás O'Leary through a gap in the French defense. O'Leary was hauled down before the line and the French defense stiffened for a few moments. Ireland tried to batter the ball through the French defense before sending it wide where O'Leary was there to finish off the move he had started. Ireland 15-12 France.
Half-time: Ireland 15-12 France
The French started fast in the second half as they pressured the Irish defense with dynamic running from their backline. Good defense from Ireland led to a blocked drop goal attempt which gave Ireland a chance to win possession and clear their lines.
David Wallace and Sean O'Brien continued their strong running bringing the team into the French half before another Irish error cost them the chance to really gain a foothold in the French half. The game was continuing at a quick pace that was making it difficult for both sides to execute effectively with the ball.
Another poor penalty given away by the Irish in midfield afforded Parra a chance to tie the game. As he had done throughout Parra notched the penalty with ease to make it Ireland 15-15 France.
Curiously Parra was taken from the field within minutes to be replaced by the equally talented Dimitri Yachvilli. It didn't put France off as they instantly took the lead breaking the Irish defense for the first time.
A terrible attempted tackle from Gordon D'Arcy allowed Aurelien Rougerie to break the Irish line after a scrum in midfield. It was a simple play to defend as France just ran straight lines from their backline. Rougerie then fed Maxime Medard in space who was never going to be caught by Luke Fitzgerald. It was too easy from the Irish point of view. Ireland 15-22 France.
France were taking over now as the french pack won another penalty at halfway from a scrum in midfield. However the Parra substitution became even more questionable when Yachvilli sliced his kick wide right of the posts.
Within minutes Ireland had made another mistake and given away a penalty at midfield. Significantly, France elected to go down the line instead and forced another penalty from the Irish in a better position to kick at goal. Yachvilli wouldn't miss this time. Ireland 15-25 France.
Declan Kidney decided to respond in the form of Ronan O'Gara. O'Gara replaced Sexton with 20 minutes to go.
The game-plan instantly changed as O'Gara darted the ball into French territory with only his second possession. France couldn't control the ball from the lineout and Ireland were looking to score. Brilliant French defense forced Ireland through 25 phases before Jamie Heaslip dived over in the corner. O'Gara added the conversion off the post to make it Ireland 22-25 France.
The Yachvilli substitution was looking like a poor decision as Yachvilli did not have his usually calm demeanor on the field.
Nonetheless France maintained possession to kill some of the Irish momentum during the next few minutes. A Luke Fitzgerald knock on gave France a chance to close the game out. Rougerie misplaced a pass allowing Ireland one more chance. The team was looking weary after a tough struggle and they had a long way to go to the French line.
Brian O'Driscoll went down for a few minutes with some form of head injury, I swear that man has had more smelling salts up his nose than anyone else in Rugby.
Ireland won a penalty from a scrum. O'Gara kicked a poor penalty that fell short but a French player knocked the ball forward into the arms of Imanol Harinordoquy to give them a foothold in French Territory. Ireland did not control the lineout which eventually led to another French scrum at midfield.
France looked to have the game in their sights before a mistake from Rougerie gave Ireland the chance to run the field. Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls broke down the left wing and nearly scored before another knock on handed France the victory.
Impact from the bench was needed as the Irish players were out on their feet and it was impossible not to notice the absence of Andrew Trimble from the bench.
Ireland's vast number of mistakes cost the team what would have been a historic victory in the first ever Six Nations game in the Aviva Stadium.
Full Time: Ireland 23-25 France
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