A 79th-minute try from Vincent Clerc has dashed Ireland’s dreams of a Grand Slam, despite a brave second half performance from Eddie O’Sullivan’s side in their first outing at Croke Park.
2007 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Sunday, February 11
IRELAND 17 FRANCE 20, Croke Park (Att: 81,572)
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Ronan O’Gara; Pens: O’Gara 4
France: Try: Raphael Ibanez, Vincent Clerc; Cons: David Skrela, Lionel Beauxis; Pens: Skrela 2
Full-Time: It is little consolation to O’Gara as he is named RBS man of the match. Mignoni’s kick to touch signals the end of the match. France celebrate their fifth straight win over Ireland. It is bitter disappointment for Eddie O’Sullivan’s men. The performance of the referee aside, France did do enough, especially in the first half, to warrant the win. We wish them well for the rest of the championship and hope their supporters enjoy Dublin tonight. Join us back here in a fortnight’s time as England visit Croke Park with the Triple Crown and possibly the championship still up for grabs.
79 mins: FRANCE TRY! Ireland are stunned as France snaffle the ball from the restart and Mignoni offloads for Vincent Clerc to dart past a challenge from John Hayes and make the try line. Beauxis converts and it looks like it is time up for Ireland. Ireland 17 France 20.
78 mins: IRELAND PENALTY! O’Gara thumps it over – it is Ireland by four! Ireland 17 France 13.
76 mins: Sebastien Bruno and Cedric Heymans are on for France as a strength-sapping maul from Ireland wins O’Gara a shot at the posts from just over the ten-metre line.
70 mins: Neil Best makes an immediate impact – he produces a stunning turnover on the Irish 22, another replacement Trimble gets his jets going on the right wing, sprinting into space and as bodies tire, Horan kicks through but is pulled back twice as he chases – unfortunately referee Walsh failed to spot the infringements and France breath again.
64 mins: A knock-on from Thion when the French threatened to throw the ball wide allows Ireland to regroup and a great kick to touch from Boss raises the tempo again. Some injury stoppages now, the players are taking a breather and I would not blame them! Not for the first time, ‘The Fields of Athenry’ is heard.
61 mins: Change at tighthead prop for France – Olivier Milloud is on. Ireland have made their first two replacements – Jerry Flannery and Andrew Trimble are on for Best and Murphy.
57 mins: France are forced into a change at number 10 as the injured Skrela is off and Lionel Beauxis comes on for only his second cap.
56 mins: IRELAND PENALTY! Ireland hit the front for the first time as Serge Betsen is penalised at a ruck and O’Gara sends over the 30-metre kick. Ireland 14 France 13.
54 mins: Chabal is off, with Julien Bonnaire on for Les Bleus.
52 mins: Jerome Thion has been thrown into the fray by France, with Pape making way. More encouragement for Ireland as they string another flurry of phases together. An electric break from Hickie, as he swerves past Skrela, ignites the crowd again.
49 mins: Excellent break from D’Arcy really excites the crowd, the Irish work through the phases and end up on the French 22 but a knock-on lets them down.
47 mins: Just when France look like they are going to get in for a second try, a knock-on from Pascal Pape sees Murphy grab the ball and race towards the French try line on an 80-metre burst, but referee Steve Walsh had already blown the whistle for the knock-on and frustratingly there was no advantage to Ireland.
44 mins: Much more control from Ireland, recycling the ball well with Horgan and D’Arcy pummeling their way up the middle.
Second Half: Kick-Off: O’Gara restarts, with no changes on either side after half-time.
Half-Time: Perhaps a slight psychological advance for Ireland as Skrela’s second penalty miss and with France dominating the first half, the fact that the hosts are only two points down means it is all to play for.
40+1 mins: France get a late chance to add to their tally, thanks to an Irish ruck infringement on the left, but Skrela misses – much to the crowd’s delight.
39 mins: Ireland keep out what looked to be a certain French try. A Mignoni kick through was blocked but fell into Imanol Harinordoquy’s hands and together with Chabal, he charged up towards the Irish try line. Only a brilliant block by Murphy, when Yannick Jauzion was set to release the men outside him, halts the French attack and a Leamy hacked clearance and Hickie chase rises the crowd to their feet.
37 mins: Skrela misses a right-sided penalty, flicking his shot to the right of the posts. A let-off for Ireland.
33 mins: Error right from the restart as Leamy fails to hold Skrela’s kick. France back on the front foot.
32 mins: IRELAND TRY! An opportunist’s try from O’Gara has Ireland right back in the game. The Irish out-half dummied a drop goal attempt, offloading for Hickie who took in three men and passes from Horgan and Wallace ended in the left corner with O’Gara gleefully touching down. The conversion attempt from the try scorer is away to the right. Ireland 11 France 13.
27 mins: Up-and-under from O’Gara is fielded brilliantly by D’Arcy but comes to nothing as Shane Horgan’s chip from the right flank is gobbled up and cleared by Clement Poitrenaud.
24 mins: IRELAND PENALTY! Ireland’s brightest spell so far, which saw Gordon D’Arcy rumble up to five metres from the French line, ends with O’Gara clipping a simple penalty over from in front of the posts. Ireland 6 France 13.
19 mins: Sebastien Chabal infringes at a midfield ruck, penalty to Ireland. The kick to touch sees the Irish up close to the French 22, they win another penalty and a Murphy kick over the top rolls nicely into touch, 15 metres out from the French try line.
15 mins: FRANCE TRY! A missed tackle by Geordan Murphy allows French skipper Ibanez to slip in at the left corner for the game’s opening try. Skrela adds the conversion, drawing it in right to left. Ireland 3 France 13.
13 mins: IRELAND PENALTY! O’Gara lands the resulting penalty kick from the ten-metre line. Ireland 3 France 6.
11 mins: Great man-and-ball hit by Denis Hickie on David Marty and the French centre is penalised for not releasing. Ireland opt to take a shot at goal.
10 mins: Isaac Boss gets a blockdown to a Skrela clearance but Clement Poitrenaud gets back to mop up and touch down for a drop out.
9 mins: FRANCE PENALTY! Skrela dinks over his second kick after Best was penalised for holding onto Pierre Mignoni as he tried to pass away from a ruck. France are dominating in the possession and territory stakes so far. Ireland 0 France 6.
5 mins: Ireland fail to gather Rory Best’s first lineout throw as France get in to disrupt Leamy’s jump.
3 mins: FRANCE PENALTY! The French open the scoring with a penalty from just outside the 22 by David Skrela, after Denis Leamy was pinged for preventing a quick release from a ruck. The visitors have settled well, taking their first lineout and getting up a head of steam with a powerful maul drive. Ireland 0 France 3..
First Half: Kick-Off: The Croker roar goes up as David Skrela starts, kicking towards the Hill. David Wallace takes, goes on the burst and the ball is recycled back to Ronan O’Gara who clears.
2.59pm: A great reception for the anthems, played by the Combined Army No. 1 and Garda Band.
2.54pm: President Mary McAleese and Peter Boyle, the IRFU President, greet the teams as strains of ‘World In Union’ ring out around the stadium.
2.52pm: A moment to remember for Paul O’Connell as he leads Ireland out at Croke Park. They are greeted by a standing ovation.
2.50pm: Good welcome for the French team, led by hooker Raphael Ibanez, as they take to the pitch.
2.49pm: The scene is set here, with about 95% of the spectators taking to the stands and terrace. We await the arrival of the teams.
2.33pm: The atmosphere is building at the Jones’s Road ground, with both squads going through their paces on the pitch. There is a bit of light dizzle falling from the Dublin sky, with a rainbow arcing off into the distance behind Hill 16 and a small bit of sunshine breaking through.
Pre-Match: Hello and welcome to Croke Park for IrishRugby.ie’s coverage of today’s Six Nations clash between Ireland and France. Sit tight for what is sure to be a memorable afternoon in the history of Irish sport. You can also click on our MatchDayLive link at the bottom of the homepage for score updates and audio coverage.
Can Ireland end a run of four straight defeats against the French? We will find out just before 5pm – there are sure to be plenty of twists and turns before then!
IRELAND: Girvan Dempsey; Geordan Murphy, Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan, Denis Hickie; Ronan O’Gara, Isaac Boss; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Simon Best, Mick O’Driscoll, Neil Best, Eoin Reddan, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble.
FRANCE: Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Yannick Jauzion, Christophe Dominici; David Skrela, Pierre Mignoni; Sylvain Marconnet, Raphael Ibanez (capt), Pieter de Villiers, Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Serge Betsen, Imanol Harinordoquy, Sebastien Chabal.
Replacements: Sebastien Bruno, Olivier Milloud, Jerome Thion, Julien Bonnaire, Dimitri Yachvili, Lionel Beauxis, Cedric Heymans.
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)