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Honours even in Paris
French Grand Slam hopes ended by Irish grit at Stade de France
Ireland withstood a ferocious French second-half fightback to earn a 17-17 draw in the rearranged RBS Six Nations clash in Paris.
The visitors led 17-6 at the break thanks to two tries from winger Tommy Bowe, but failed to build on that after the break.
They spent most of the second half on the back foot but survived to earn a point after France fluffed two last-gasp drop-goal attempts.
Bowe took his tally to five tries in the tournament with an interception effort and a kick-and-collect score, while seven points from Jonathan Sexton gave the visitors an 11-point half-time cushion.
Morgan Parra kicked two penalties in each half, while Wesley Fofana's third try in three games ultimately denied the Irish their first win here since 2000 and only their third in 30 years.
From the start France showed some dangerous touches in attack, but their attempts at offloading were repeatedly foiled by Ireland wrapping them up in the tackle.
Recent Irish attempts at storming the Stade de France have been undermined by a disastrous start, but this time it was Les Bleus' turn to implode in the opening quarter.
A ponderous attack from just outside the French 22 reached centre Aurelien Rougerie, whose lazy floated pass intended for winger Julien Malzieu instead found the lurking Bowe.
The Ospreys winger made light work of the gallop home and when Sexton converted from beneath the posts, Ireland were 7-0 ahead.
Parra and Sexton exchanged penalties before Bowe almost escaped with another intercept try, though this time the ball slipped from his fingertips.
Ireland's scrum was now in full retreat, allowing Parra to land a monster three points that reduced the deficit to four points.
Prop Cian Healy was lucky to escape a yellow card as he blocked Clerc from an outrageously offside position as France sought to escape down the right.
Les Bleus' sense of injustice intensified when Parra missed the penalty and then they slipped further behind as Bowe struck once again.
Fast hands and a mix-up in defence allowed him to break free and although it seemed as though he had blown a chance by failing to release Rob Kearney, his chip ahead bounced kindly and he dummied Poitrenaud to stroll over, with Sexton converting.
The second half was ushered in by rain and it took Parra six minutes to land his third penalty, but Ireland were soon back on the front foot.
Winger Andrew Trimble had the ball knocked from his hand as he switched with Jamie Heaslip and a fine opportunity vanished.
Irish hearts sank when France touched down in the 50th minute, initially profiting from good fortune during a loose passage of play.
The ball bounced into the arms of Fofana and the centre accelerated clear, out-running Kearney to dive over in the left corner.
The momentum had clearly shifted, a fact underlined when Parra rifled over a long-range penalty to level the score.
Moments later scrum-half Conor Murray was replaced by Eoin Reddan after being stretchered off because of an injury to his right knee.
Ireland then spent a sustained spell in the opposition half but failed to turn their attacks into any points, while Lionel Beauxis sent an ugly drop-goal attempt under the crossbar and then saw a second effort charged down.
France had one last chance for victory as time expired only for Kearney to bundle Malzieu into touch.
The outcome ends the prospect of a Grand Slam decider between Wales and France on March 17, while Ireland's title hopes are now effectively over.
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|RBS Six Nations|
|Friday 6th February|
|RBS Six Nations|
|20:05||Wales vs England|
|Saturday 7th February|
|14:30||Italy vs Ireland|
|17:00||France vs Scotland|
|Saturday 14th February|
|14:30||England vs Italy|
|17:00||Ireland vs France|
|Sunday 15th February|
|15:00||Scotland vs Wales|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||Scotland vs Italy|
|17:00||France vs Wales|
|Sunday 1st March|
|15:00||Ireland vs England|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com