|France (19) 30|
|Tries: Dupont, Baille Con: Jaminate Pens: Jaminate 6|
|Ireland (7) 24|
|Tries: Hansen, Van der Flier, Gibson-Park Cons: Carbery 3 Pen: Carbery|
France cemented their position as Six Nations favorites by holding off Ireland in a pulsating heavyweight encounter in Paris.
The hosts led by 15 points early in the second half but Ireland roared back with quickfire tries from Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park.
Cyril Baille responded for France before Joey Carbery’s penalty reduced the Irish deficit to three.
However Melvyn Jaminet’s sixth penalty helped France see out a crucial win.
Billed as a meeting between the northern hemisphere’s two form sides – and favorites for this year’s title – the relentlessly physical spectacle did not disappoint.
Ireland, who gave a far better account of themselves in the second half after an ill-disciplined opening 40 minutes, taste defeat for the first time in 10 matches as their 12-month winning run comes to an end against the side to have last beat them a year ago.
Irish penalties prove costly in frantic first half
The consensus during the game’s build-up was that regardless of the result of the contest was unlikely to disappoint as a spectacle given the form of both teams.
Within 10 minutes the capacity crowd at the Stade de France had gained full value for money with 17 points scored in the ferocious opening exchanges.
Antoine Dupont’s decision to take a quick line-out in the first minute immediately set the tempo for a frantic contest, and France’s determination to keep the ball moving paid off instantly as Romain Ntamack found Dupont with a sublime inside offload for the scrum-half to scamper home.
Having coughed up a penalty which Jaminate duly converted, Ireland found themselves in a situation they had not been in for two years: on the back foot against a team bang in form with a partisan crowd to match.
Their response was magnificent if somewhat unconventional as wing Mack Hansen, on just his second appearance, capitalized on a moment of indecision from Jaminet to collect Carbery’s restart on the full and sprint into the corner.
After an astonishing opening salvo the contest did eventually find some rhythm, with frightening French line-speed halting Ireland in their tracks, while the visitors’ strong tackling kept France largely at bay.
Much of the credit for Ireland’s winning run had been directed towards the transformation of Andy Farrell’s pack, who had bulldozed the recent opposition and dominated the ruck. However in Paris they found themselves up against an entirely different animal.
France targeted the ruck and took control of the battleground as Ireland coughed up eight penalties before half-time.
Jaminet’s accuracy with the boot saw France capitalize on those errors and gradually edge away from the visitors, opening up a 19-7 lead by the interval.
More to follow.
Ireland: Keenan; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Hansen; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan (c), Doris, Van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Bealham, Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Carty, Henshaw.
France: Jaminate; Penaud, Fickou, Moefana, Villiere; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Atonio, Woki, Willemse, Cross, Jelonch, Alldritt.
Replacements: Mauvaka, Gros, Bamba, Taofifenua, Flament, Cretin, Lucu, Ramos.