RYAN VREDE reports on France’s impressive 25-22 victory over Ireland in Dublin.
The Test was an advert for a style of play that is possible in the northern hemisphere when the attacking team is allowed a fair crack at recycling. This has seldom been the case, with referees generally way too lenient and defenders all too willing to exploit that generosity, making for a dour spectacle.
The manner in which Ireland started – patient controlled phase play at pace – suggested they would dominate. A fourth minute converted try from Fergus McFadden after cavalier play from France in their red zone had the home crowd buzzing, but their ill-discipline cost them thereafter, with France scrumhalf Morgan Parra sinking four penalties for a 12-10 lead.
France must be credited. They remedied their early defensive failings and starved the hosts of possession. They were hardly incisive on attack, with much of their play taking place well behind the gain line, but it was enough to temporarily subdue their opponents.
That was until the dying stages of the first half when scrumhalf Tomas O’Leary sniped around the ruck fringe to score after they again depleted the defensive line through multiple phases. Sexton missed the conversion, the half ending with Ireland 15-12 ahead.
Parra banked his fifth penalty to level the scores, and minutes later Maxime Medard rounded off a slick backline movement – set up by an Aurelie Rougerie linebreak – to give France the momentum going into the final quarter.
Ireland were visibly shaken and failed to replicate the elements of their first half effort that had brought success. France sensed this, redoubling their defensive effort.
Replacement scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili kicked a crucial 63rd minute penalty, but Ireland set up a tense finish when Jamie Heaslip scored in the corner four minutes later. Ronan O’Gara kicked the touchline conversion. Ireland’s best chance at victory came with a minute to go, but a knock on saw there ambitions crushed.