Ireland held on for a 17-17 draw against France in Paris having led 17-6 at half-time.
The result ends Les Bleus’ Grand Slam hopes and sees them fall a point behind Wales (who have won three from three) on the Six Nations log.
When France scrumhalf Morgan Parra slotted his fourth penalty at the end of the third quarter to level the scores, the hosts appeared to have the momentum that would carry them to another victory. But Ireland defended bravely in the closing stages, charging down a drop-goal attempt from replacement flyhalf Lionel Beauxis with three minutes to go, and then tackling left wing Julien Malzieu into touch in the final move of the game when a try was on.
The visitors, though, will be disappointed that they didn’t finish the job having led by 11 at the break thanks to two Tommy Bowe tries.
The first, on the 12-minute mark, was a gift, with the Irish right wing intercepting an awful pass from French outside centre Aurelien Rougerie and dotting down under the posts. The second came from a turnover inside Irish territory just before half-time. The ball went wide to Bowe, who shrugged off Fofana’s tackle before chipping over Malzieu and regathering to score.
Les Bleus turned things around early in the second half when a Parra penalty was followed by a fortuitous try. A French backline move appeared to have broken down in midfield, but Irish No 13 Keith Earls made the mistake of trying to fly-hack the ball ahead which allowed French No 12 Wesley Fofana to claim possession and score in the left-hand corner.
Ireland, though, were lucky not to have been reduced to 14 men just before Bowe’s second strike, when loosehead prop Cian Healy’s blatant lazy running stopped a promising French attack. Parra then missed the subsequent penalty goal attempt, having slotted a couple earlier on, including one that came off the crossbar and ‘falconed’ Bowe.
Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton converted both of his side’s tries and kicked a penalty, but he wouldn’t have any further opportunities in a second half that was dominated by the hosts.
By Simon Borchardt