Frogs fire, then fade

France survived a late Irish onslaught to win their Six Nations match 26-21 in Paris.

When fullback Cédric Heymans scored the hosts’ fourth try in the 48th minute for a 26-6 lead, the game appeared to be over.

However, the Irish dominated possession from then on, and were rewarded with a penalty try – albeit a controversial one. The French pack were nailed by referee Nigel Owens for collapsing a 5m scrum, but they were not going backwards and Ireland still had a lot of work to do.

A few minutes later, the visitors struck again when flanker David Wallace barged his way over. While O’Gara missed the conversion, his third penalty made it a five-point ball game with five minutes remaining.

The Irish finished the match camped inside the French 22. They took the ball through several phases before Geordan Murphy opted to kick ahead for the chasing Girvan Dempsey. However, the ball went into touch and the final whistle went.

It was a dramatic end to a game France dominated for 50 minutes.

The hosts took the lead near the end of the first quarter when they turned over possession inside their half and scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde kicked into the left corner. Vincent Clerc, who came into the side as a late replacement, comfortably won the race to the ball.

Ronan O’Gara got Ireland on the board with a penalty, only for David Skrela to break through the defence and pass to Clerc, who scored his second try in five minutes.

O’Gara again reduced the deficit to six with another penalty, but France struck again just before half-time when Heymans glided into space and put Clerc away for his hat-trick and a 19-6 lead.

It was another kick from Elissalde, this time a grubber, that seemed to have put the result beyond doubt soon after the break. The ball bounced off Brian O’Driscoll and into the hands of Heymans, who dotted down under the posts.

However, the Irish weren’t done yet, and their two tries set up a thrilling finale.

France – Tries: Vincent Clerc (3), Cédric Heymans. Conversions: Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (2).
Ireland –Tries: Penalty try, David Wallace. Conversion: Ronan O’Gara. Penalties: O’Gara (3).