First France/Ireland draw in 60 years as only Wales can win Grand Slam
The game was played very much between each 22 in the opening 10 minutes. A few quality up and unders and outstanding high fielding “marks” from France full-back Proitrenaud. Quality big hits as usual coming from Ferris.
Sexton missed a horrible penalty from 25 metres on five minutes; shanking the ball left from what appeared to be a real “gimme” and what proved to be a crucial miss at the end of the game.
On 11 minutes; Ireland were offered a try on a plate against the run of play with Bowe reading a French midfield pass to run the 20 metres under the French posts, with the conversion putting the visitors 0-7 ahead.
Ireland enjoyed a few minutes in the ascendancy before France turned the screw. On 20 minutes, France looked certain to score after a touch of genius from Francois Trinduch leading the French on 50 metre burst which was eventually held up five metres short of the line. Morgan Parra took the penalty to make the score 3-7 on 22 minutes.
On 26 minutes; Sexton restored Ireland’s seven point lead with a penalty of similar ease to the one he missed in the first few minutes; France 3-10 Ireland
Such is the ability of the French counter attack/line-out that Ireland kicked to touch deep into that touch – often into the front few rows of the stand, so as to prevent Les Bleus from taking a quick throw. Bowe almost got in for a second intercept try; but knocked the ball on with the line at his mercy – though it was a difficult take. Parra converted the resulting penalty from 45 metres (55 metres when considering the angle) with the ball clearing the crossbar by inches before banging Bowe on the head much to the amusement of the home crowd;
France 6-10 Ireland on 30 minutes.
A very encouraging opening half from an Irish point of view. Whilst there was plenty of time spent on the back foot; Ireland (particularly Healy, Ferris and Kearney) tackled manfully with the latter taking a few magnificent up-and-unders under pressure.
Ireland conceded another penalty five minutes from the break, with Healy coming back from treatment and miles offside he obstructed a French attack 30 metres from the Irish try-line. The French understandably wanted more than the penalty awarded, with Parra screwing the resulting kick high and wide.
Come the short whistle; the French had three very dangerous line breaks, with the Irish scrambled defence eventually recovering. Ireland had nothing similar to compare, aside from the soft try of course. That is of course until Bowe popped up for his second try with the last play of the half. A wonderful, free flowing passing move with Ferris doing the hard yards inside his own half, passing to Earls who took two French men out of the game; finding Bowe 45 metres from the try-line. He chipped the ball over his man, with the bounce luckily favouring him, he cantered home from 15 metres. The conversion saw Ireland lead 6-17 at half-time. A difficult 40 minutes to come, but Ireland were more than well in it.
Early in the second half; France threatened to cut loose; but on a hit and miss day for Parra, he unforgiveably passed behind his man with a try in the French nostrils with play 12 metres from the Irish line.
France seemed to be turning the screw, however, five minutes into the second half; the Irish defence was holding its own in drizzly conditions which would be more familiar in Dublin’s “fair” city. In the difficult conditions; Parra converted a 40 metre penalty, putting the French within eight points as we approached the 50 minute mark;
France 9-17 Ireland.
France got the try they deserved just past the 50 minute mark, with the Irish defence eventually broken. In broken play; a hacked clearance was fluffed; Wesley Fofana received the offload and the lightning fast full-back sprinted the 45 metres to the try-line with Kearney’s despairing tackle coming just too late. For some reason the referee went to the TMO but it was a foregone conclusion. The conversion was missed but France were within three points; France 14-17 Ireland.
Moment of the match arguably came minutes later with Kearney coming from nowhere to leap like a salmon into the air and take a Parra up and-under-from high over his head.
Considerable difference between the first and second halves. In the opening 40; Ireland’s defence held firm, but as the minutes passed; the French were now breaking the gain line with increasing ease. Parra converted a difficult penalty from 50 metres and the scores were level on 58 minutes, with Ireland losing their shape and a change seeming essential; France 17-17 Ireland.
Within a minute; Ryan replaces O’Callaghan moments before a substitution was forced with scrum-half Murray landing awkwardly on his knee and Reddan coming in to replace him. It was all France at this stage; but, midway through the second-half, the scores are level.
Ireland had a line-out throw on 65 minutes five metres from the French try-line but over threw it and France cleared their lines. Sean O’Brien was then substituted by Peter O’Mahony; much to the former’s chagrin.
Eight minutes from time; O’Gara replaced D’Arcy and shortly afterwards numbers one and two in the front row were taken off.
Four minutes from time; Beauxis attempted drop goal was magnificently blocked down by Ferris, with the Irish defence holding firm thereafter and eventually forcing a turnover which took Ireland to the final whistle level.
A hard earned draw and to not win having led by 11 points and to not score in the second-half is disappointing for the Irish set-up; but there was much to be pleased about from this performance as Ireland clung on deep in their own 22 for the two minutes of injury-time at the death of the game.