France 35-27 Ireland: England win Six Nations as visitors fall short in Paris
England crowned 2020 Six Nations champions after Ireland fall short in bid to win the title in Paris with a 35-27 defeat. Andy Farrell's side needed to win by seven points or more, but after a promising first half they couldn't overcome France
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 01/11/20 10:37am
Ireland fell short in their bid to win the 2020 Six Nations title in Paris on Saturday, handing England the championship after a 35-27 defeat to France.
Andy Farrell's side headed into their clash with France knowing a win by seven points or more would clinch the title, but though they were on top for large spells in the first half, a poor second-half showing saw them fall short.
France - who needed to win by at least 31 points to have any chance of winning the title themselves - notched four tries through a penalty try, Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa, while Ntamack also kicked three further penalties and two conversions.
Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale scored tries for Ireland, with Sexton kicking two penalties and two conversions and Ross Byrne a further conversion, but the visitors were hampered by a faltering lineout, repeated knock-ons and a litany of mistakes.
As a result, England won the title on points difference following their 34-5 win over Italy earlier in the day.
The first scoring chance of the final 2020 Six Nations match fell Ireland's way, as a scrum penalty saw scrum-half Conor Murray attempt an effort off the tee from 57 metres out, but his attempt drifted wide.
Thereafter, France sprung into life as a Gael Fickou break from deep down the left opened up the Irish defence and paved the way for Dupont to collect an inside Fickou pass and run in.
Three minutes later, Ireland responded as a superb Sexton kick towards the left corner saw wing Hugo Keenan give chase, and when he juggled the bouncing ball France full-back Anthony Bouthier intentionally batted it away to concede a penalty and sin-bin.
Referee Wayne Barnes deemed a penalty try not appropriate because of the ball floating above Keenan and the presence of the covering Fickou, though replays appeared to suggest a penalty try should have been awarded.
Ireland kicked into the corner during the next phase of play, but their maul set was poor and the move broke down when Sexton knocked on a loose ball.
The visitors continued to apply pressure within the France 22, but were held up once and then stopped just short when Sexton was denied.
Ireland turned down two penalty shots at goal for five-metre scrums soon after, and their first try arrived when Healy, on the occasion of his 100th cap, picked and drove for the line with James Ryan on his shoulder.
On 26 minutes, Ireland hit the front when France were caught offside, and Sexton bisected the uprights for a 10-7 advantage.
France were handed a route back into the clash on the half-hour mark when Ireland full-back Jacob Stockdale twice failed to gather a ball on the turf, and France back-row Francois Cros hacked on twice before being tackled off the ball by Ireland flanker Caelan Doris - handing referee Barnes an easy decision of penalty try and yellow card.
Sexton reduced the deficit to a single point with a penalty four minutes later after France went off feet at the breakdown, before Ntamack re-established a four-point lead when Conor Murray was penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
Ireland were awarded a penalty in the final play of the first half with Doris still in the sin-bin, but the visitors turned down the chance for a penalty shot in favour of a lineout, from which Ireland failed to score, conceding a penalty deep within the France 22.
France struck first in the second half with Fickou and Dupont again involved - the former kicking ahead intelligently, the latter gathering the chip and offloading inside superbly for Ntamack to catch and dive over.
Ntamack kicked three more points on 48 minutes to give the home side a 12-point lead, and leave Ireland needing three unanswered tries.
The next score arrived France's way once more, and again it was via Ntamack's boot after Ireland prop Andrew Porter was adjudged to have failed to release at the breakdown, leaving France 28-13 ahead.
On the hour mark, Henshaw scored a fantastic try down the left to bring Ireland back into things, showing brilliant acceleration and power, and when Sexton dispatched the conversion from out wide, there was renewed belief.
Lineout malfunctions became a theme of Ireland's attack for the rest of the game, however, destroying any momentum they built up as possession was coughed up time and again.
The game was then killed as a contest when Ntamack produced a stunning piece of skill, chipping behind the Ireland defence with his weaker left foot before regathering and offloading for Vakatawa to sprint in.
Ireland did register one final score as Stockdale raced in with the clock in the red, but Ireland were left deflated, having passed up a tangible shot at a fourth title in seven years.