Six Nations 2016: France 10-9 Ireland
|RBS Six Nations|
|France (3) 10|
|Try: Medard Con: Plisson Pen: Plisson|
|Ireland (9) 9|
|Pens: Sexton 3|
Maxime Medard's late try snatched victory for France over a battered and bruised Ireland in an attritional Six Nations contest in a wet Paris.
Ireland posed all the attacking threat in the first half but poor handling meant they had to settle for a 9-3 lead courtesy of three Johnny Sexton kicks.
By that stage, Sean O'Brien and Dave Kearney were already off injured.
Medard's 70th-minute score followed sustained pressure and Jules Plisson's conversion secured victory for France.
Sexton, who had been the victim of an off the ball hit by Yoann Maestri earlier in the game, was forced off moments before the match-winning try.
It came when replacement scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain sniped off the back of a scrum near the Irish posts to set up Medard, with the full-back brushing off Robbie Henshaw on his way to the line.
Ireland's defeat means their hopes of a historic third successive Six Nations title now look remote while the French will aim for a possible Grand Slam after their first victory over the Irish in five years.
France front-row changes key
The introduction of props Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous five minutes into the second half was central to France's second-half comeback as the absence of Mike Ross and Cian Healy began to seriously impact on the Irish.
Slimani and Ben Arous had been dropped after being accused of lacklustre displays in the 23-21 win over Italy last weekend but both proved their worth in Saturday's win.
Ireland were already starting to run out of bodies at that stage after the enforced retirements of key man O'Brien and Dave Kearney in the first period.
After posing little threat in the opening period, the French broke into the Irish half in the 50th minute as Camille Chat intercepted a Rob Kearney off-load on the edge of the home team's 22 and set up Virimi Vakatawa to finally show his pace.
And the remainder of the contest was played almost entirely deep in Irish territory, with a series of scrum infringements by the visitors eventually yielding Medard's decisive score.
Ireland waste first-half chances
The Irish will look back on a series of handling errors as they threatened the France line in the first half, with Henshaw failing to hold a Sexton reverse pass and CJ Stander also frustratingly knocking on.
Sexton picked himself up off the floor after a late hit by Maestri to kick Ireland ahead in the 15th minute but their dominance should have yielded more than the fly-half's three successful penalties.
O'Brien's departure with a hamstring problem in the 19th minute was a big blow after he had made a number of early carries while wing Kearney was forced off by a shoulder injury nine minutes later.
France forward power wears down battered Irish
The attrition continued for the Irish in the second period as lock Mike McCarthy was forced off following a clash of heads, having suffered a blood injury in the first period.
Medard's try came as the Irish appeared in danger of conceding a penalty try as their scrum creaked.
The chance of an immediate Irish response came and went as replacement fly-half Ian Madigan kicked the restart out on the full and the visitors did not threaten in the remaining nine minutes of action.
After this defeat, Ireland face a daunting trip to Twickenham to take on England on 27 February with the French facing Wales the previous evening in Cardiff.
What the experts said
Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood: "It was a dull game, the conditions were poor. But as the second half moved on the level of control France had meant play was in Ireland's half. Ireland spent the last 20 minutes in their own 22 and it's nigh on impossible to score from there."
Former France international Thomas Castaignede: "It was a narrow win but a massive win in terms of confidence for France."
France: Medard; Thomas, Mermoz, Danty, Vakatawa; Plisson, Bezy; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Atonio; Flanquart, Maestri, Lauret, Camara, Chouly.
Replacements: Chat for Guirado 47, Slimani for Poirot 44, Ben Arous for Atonio 44, Jedresiak for Maestri 58, Goujon for Camara 67, Machenaud for Bezy 56, Doussain for Danty 76, Bonneval for Thomas 44.
Ireland: R Kearney; Trimble, Payne, Henshaw, D Kearney; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best (capt), White; McCarthy, Toner; Stander, O'Brien, Heaslip.
Replacements: Strauss for Best 71, J Cronin for McGrath 73, Furlong for White 62, Ryan for McCarthy 62, O'Donnell for O'Brien, Reddan, Madigan for Sexton 69, McFadden for D Kearney 29.
Not used: Reddan
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)
|Data provided by Accenture|
|11 (1)||Scrums won (lost)||8 (0)|
|8 (2)||Line-outs won (lost)||9 (2)|
|118 (1)||Rucks/mauls won (lost)||73 (6)|
|22||Kicks from hand||23|
|103 (6)||Tackles made (missed)||151 (17)|