Ireland kept their Six Nations title defence alive with a 26-14 bonus-point win over France in Dublin.
First-half tries from Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan paved the way for victory, with Keith Earls grabbing the crucial fourth after the interval.
Joe Schmidt’s side now need to beat table-topping Wales in their final match in Cardiff and hope England fail to get the better of Scotland if the trophy is to remain in their hands.
The hosts, already without Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy, also lost Rob Kearney to injury as Jordan Lamour came in at full-back, but the early signs suggested it did little to undermine their fluency.
Best put the finishing touch on a move started by his own line-out throw in the third minute and Sexton added the extras.
France thought they had provided a swift response, but Thomas Ramos knocked on before pulling a cross-field kick out of the air to score.
Concerted Ireland pressure did not get its reward until just before the half-hour mark, Sexton deftly exchanging passes with Garry Ringrose before darting through a gap to touch down for his first Test try since 2015.
The @IrishRugby wrap
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 10, 2019
Having lost to England in their previous home game, Ireland all but made sure of avoiding the same fate this time around when Conan bulldozed his way over the line just before the break.
It took a while for Schmidt’s charges to get going in the second half, but Earls sprinted away for the bonus-point score to set up a tantalising final round of the 2019 Six Nations.
France only stirred to life in the dying embers of the contest, with Yoann Huget’s late try – which came while Dorian Aldegheri was in the sin bin after repeated infringmenets – followed up by another from Camille Chat beyond the 80th minute.
Earls’ try pivotal?
Ireland knew above all else that they simply had to win, but the addition of a try-scoring bonus point was the icing on the cake.
After controlling the opening 40 minutes, there was a disconcerting drop-off in Ireland’s display in the second half until Earls’ 56th-minute try, which sparked jubilant celebrations and could yet prove invaluable.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 10, 2019
Les Bleus have the blues
Remember when France were 16-0 up at half-time against Wales in the opening match of this year’s championship?
There were whispers that maybe Jacques Brunel’s men may be a force to be reckoned with, but despite their late exploits this result was another reminder of just how far short they are.
Key Opta Facts
– France have lost 10 of their last 12 away games in the Six Nations (W2), their only victories in that run coming against Italy (2015 and 2017).
– Keith Earls is now level with Tommy Bowe as Ireland’s joint-second highest try scorer in Test history, behind only Brian O’Driscoll (46); it was his first try versus France in his 10th game against them.
– France failed to score a first-half point for the first time in 53 Tests, the last occasion coming against Australia in Melbourne in June 2014.
– Johnny Sexton ended a run of 30 Tests, including with the British and Irish Lions, without scoring a try.
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