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Ireland Suffer Heavy Paris Defeat

Ireland Suffer Heavy Paris Defeat

Battered, bruised and well beaten. Ireland’s hopes of defending their RBS 6 Nations title took a severe dent as an on song French side stormed to a 33-10 victory over Declan Kidney’s shellshocked charges.

RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, February 13 

FRANCE 33 IRELAND 10, Stade de France

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Scorers: France: Tries: William Servat, Yannick Jauzion, Clement Poitrenaud; Cons: Morgan Parra 3; Pens: Morgan Parra 2; Drops: Morgan Parra, Frederic Michalak
Ireland: Try: David Wallace; Con: Ronan O’Gara; Pen: Ronan O’Gara

All week the Irish players had stressed the importance of preventing the RBS 6 Nations favourites from establishing an unassailable lead, which they managed to triumphant effect in 2006 and 2008.

But the same scenario unfolded yet again with an irresistible France surging 17-3 ahead by half-time with tries from William Servat and Yannick Jauzion.

Ten of those points arrived while Ireland prop Cian Healy was in the sin-bin, guilty of an early tackle on Francois Trinh-Duc, with the kicking of Morgan Parra also keeping the scoreboard ticking for the hosts.

France, expertly marshalled by out-half Trinh-Duc, were magnificent as they stunned the shellshocked Irish with a mixture of power and ingenuity.

A try from Clement Poitrenaud and Parra’s accurate kicking added to the post-interval carnage to underline the gulf in class on the day and the les Bleus’ title credentials.

Victory will taste all the sweeter knowing that Ireland arrived in Paris genuinely believing they could end their decade-long wait for success at the Stade de France.

Instead, Brian O’Driscoll’s side failed the first significant examination of their title defence to end their 12-match unbeaten run dating back to November 2008.

Given France’s propensity for imploding, the race for the Six Nations is not over yet but Ireland were badly exposed and this defeat was far more painful than any of those Paris reversals in recent memory.

The 2006 and 2008 matches witnessed courageous fightbacks that almost reeled in the French, but apart from David Wallace’s 64th-minute try, the men in green – exhausted by their defensive efforts and with their attacking game faltering – just could not respond. 

Ireland, who lost the services of full-back Rob Kearney to a knee injury,  trudged off shellshocked at the final whistle, yet a promising opening suggested they might finally be ready to improve their record of just one win in Paris in 28 years.

Powerful early runs from returning flanker Stephen Ferris, included after missing out against Italy because of a knee injury, and the ever ready Jamie Heaslip swept them five metres short of the line.

France’s defence reacted sharply, however, with Jauzion bottling up O’Driscoll before the attack became lateral and fizzled out.

Gordon D’Arcy, breaking brilliantly through midfield, was denied a try by the bounce of the ball after he charged into space and chipped ahead with winger Vincent Clerc, so often Ireland’s try-scoring nemesis, coming to the rescue.

Jerry Flannery was somewhat fortunate not to be punished further after a clumsy challenge on winger Alexis Palisson.

The pendulum swung as impressive number 8 Imanol Harinordoquy used his bulk to make ground, resulting in a yellow card for Healy as he held back the supporting Trinh-Duc.

Parra landed the penalty before a lineout catch and drive secured France further yardage, with the pressure then cranked up by four successive five-metre scrums.

Ireland, a man down and just about holding on, conceded on two of them before France went wide, drawing defenders into a maul and then exploiting a large gap in front of the posts by sending Servat over.

Parra converted but a penalty from Ronan O’Gara reduced the deficit to 10-3 – until France produced their second try the on the half-hour mark.

Mathieu Bastareaud bulldozed his way through midfield and was stopped 10 metres short, but the ball found its way to Jauzion who slipped over untroubled.

The conversion was kicked by Parra and Ireland’s problems mounted with the departure of the injured Kearney, prompting the introduction of Paddy Wallace and the shifting of Keith Earls to full-back and D’Arcy onto the wing.

Trailing 17-3, Ireland declined two shots at goal in a pulsating end to the first half that saw France’s whitewash come under sustained attack from short-range drives. 

A knock-on in the act of scoring denied Clerc, who has crossed seven times in five matches against Ireland, a try five minutes after the restart but the champions, despite maintaining a high level of effort, continued to struggle.

Spending increasing amounts of time deep in their own half, they saw the impressive Trinh-Duc race inches short before some knock-ons and individual errors left Ireland frustrated and starved of any forward momentum..

Bastareaud showed strength to set up France’s third try, slipping a backhanded scoring pass to Poitrenaud with Parra converting before the Clermont Auvergne scrum half added an audacious drop goal.

Ireland replied with a try by Wallace in the 65th minute, set up initially by Ferris with O’Driscoll producing the decisive pass and O’Gara converting.

But there was no fightback this time as replacement Frederic Michalak landed a drop goal to land the final blow.

TIME LINE: 18 minutes – Ireland yellow card: Cian Healy (professional foul – tackling player without the ball); 18 mins – France penalty: Morgan Parra – 3-0; 28 mins – France try: William Servat – 8-0; conversion: Morgan Parra – 10-0; 29 mins – Ireland penalty: Ronan O’Gara – 10-3; 31 mins – France try: Yannick Jauzion – 15-3; conversion: Morgan Parra – 17-3; Half-time – France 17 Ireland 3; 59 mins – France try: Clement Poitrenaud – 22-3; conversion: Morgan Parra – 24-3; 62 mins – France drop goal: Morgan Parra – 27-3; 64 mins – Ireland try: David Wallace – 27-8; conversion: Ronan O’Gara – 27-10; 67 mins – France penalty: missed by Morgan Parra – 27-10; 70 mins – France penalty: Morgan Parra – 30-10; 79 mins – France drop goal: Frederic Michalak – 33-10; Full-time – France 33 Ireland 10

FRANCE: Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, Mathieu Bastareaud, Yannick Jauzion, Alexis Palisson; Francois Trinh-Duc, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Imanol Harinordoquy.

Replacements used: Julien Malzieu for Palisson (24 mins), David Marty for Clerc (48), Dimitri Szarzewski for Servat, Sylvain Marconnet for Mas (both (50), Julien Bonnaire for Harinordoquy (62), Frederic Michalak for Jauzion (67), Nicolas Mas for Marconnet (73), Julien Pierre for Pape (74).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Cian Healy, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Leo Cullen, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements used: Paddy Wallace for O’Driscoll (19-20 mins, blood sub), Tom Court for Ferris (20-28, temp sub), Paddy Wallace for Kearney (32), Tom Court for Hayes (50), Rory Best for Flannery, Donnacha Ryan for Cullen (both 61), Eoin Reddan for O’Leary, Jonathan Sexton for O’Gara (both 69). Not used: Sean O’Brien. 

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)