Gallant Ireland fall to defiant French
By: Cillian Ó Conchúir | Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 2:46 PM | Updated Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 2:46 PM
France secured their second win of the RBS Six Nations championship with a 22-25 victory as Lansdowne Road saw a pulsating return to Six Nations rugby. While the victory keeps Marc Lièvremont's Grand Slam ambitions alive, Ireland now look towards the Triple Crown with trips to Edinburgh and Cardiff to come.
Despite an incredible start from Ireland which saw them camped inside the French 22 for most of the opening 10 minutes, From the very first contact, Ireland were in control as French lock, Julian Pierre was pushed into touch after he gathered the kick off.
Ireland inched closer to the French line, first stretching the ball wide right and when it came back wide left Gordan D'Arcy passed to Luke Fitzgerald who touched down in the corner, but the touch judge deemed the pass forward.
But Ireland were not to be denied and on five minutes Fergus McFadden profited from a Clement Poitrenaud knock on inside the French 22. The Leinster man made a dash for the line but was held up short. After Paul O'Connell and David Wallace took the ball and drove towards the line, McFadden picked the ball up and got the try. Jonathan Sexton added the conversion to give Ireland a 7-0 lead.
When Wallace was penalised in the ruck Morgan Parra struck France back into the game. Sexton then stretched Ireland's lead to seven with a penalty of his own. Then Parra showed a masterclass in kicking as the French scrum half punished Ireland on three further occasions in the first half to give France a 10-12 lead.
But Ireland bounced back with a tremendous try from Tomás O'Leary three minutes before the break. A move that began with a Fitzgerald kick that gave Ireland a lineout inside the French 22, ended with Donncha O'Callghan taking in the lineout and feeding O' Leary on the run. When the ball is recycled Ireland had a man over but it seemed Ireland let the opportunity slip, when Jonathan Sexton turned inside and was held up short of the line.
But in a move reminiscent of McFadden's try, O'Leary took the ball from the back of the ruck and dived over. This time the TMO confirmed the try awarded the try but Sexton's conversion went wide of the right hand upright to give Ireland a 15-12 lead at the interval.
Two minuted after the restart the French backline came into their own and only a Cian Healy block prevented a François Trinh-Duc drop goal attempt from tying the game. Ireland cleared when French indiscipline gave away a penalty.
On 49 minutes Parra brought the French level, 15-15 when Ireland who conceded a total of nine penalties were again penalised by referee Dave Pearson. The introduction of Dimitri Yachvili for Parra on 53 minutes coincided with the French backline finding their stride.
Aurélien Rougerie was fed the ball from the French scrum and the centre ran straight through D'Arcy before offloading in the tackle to Maxime Medard who raced clear to score. Yachvili added the conversion and then added a penalty to stretch France's lead to 15-25 as Ireland introduced Ronan O'Gara.
When France kicked possession back to Ireland on 64 minutes, O'Gara found the French corner with a monstrous kick into the French 22. Ireland won the ball on the French line out and Sean O'Brien, Wallace and Tom Court - who had earlier been introduced for Healy - went for the French line.
When the ball came back to O'Gara, his grubber was blocked by a French leg, but Wallace retrieved and fed Jamie Heaslip who dived over in the corner. Again the referee went to the TMO who gave the try. O'Gara's conversion needed the assistance of the left hand upright before bouncing over.
Despite a late rally from Ireland France held Ireland at bay, as they wound the clock down to the resounding chorus of boos which echoed around the stadium. In the end the 17 errors that Ireland made was the decisive blow.
France now head to Twickenham for a top of the table clash with England which should go some way in deciding the outcome of this years Six Nations championship.
For Ireland and Declan Kidney a trip to Murrayfield now beckons in a fortnight, with Scotland starring at a possible third successive defeat in this years championship after back-to-back defeats to France and Wales.