Six Nations: France edge Ireland 10-9 in bruising battle
By Robert Mulhern
Last Updated: 13/02/16 7:26pm
Maxime Medard scored a late converted try as France edged Ireland 10-9 in bruising Six Nations battle in Paris.
The hosts surged into the game in the final quarter after Ireland squandered opportunities through a dominant first-half.
Then, Ireland were in the ascendancy, controlling possession and territory but returning too few points to lead 9-3 at the interval.
Still, when the game resumed after the break, Ireland looked a decent bet to take the points until substitute prop Eddy Ben Arous intercepted against the run of play on the hour-mark and momentum switched in an instant.
Suddenly, France made good in the soggy conditions and they began to cut through an Irish defence that had been rock solid until then.
Only a despairing Andrew Trimble interception prevented a try on 61 minutes and France settled down for a scrum-fest.
Referee Jaco Peyper went to the video referee after France crossed under the posts minutes later, but with no clear grounding, France retreated five-metres to scrum and scrum again.
Ireland were penalised three times at the set-piece and with many expecting the next shove to force a penalty try, substitute scrum-half Maxime Machenaud broke down the short side following a quick strike, to send Medard over under the posts.
Fly-half Jules Plisson added the conversion to give France the lead and the hosts squeezed the last bit of impetus out of Ireland in the final minutes.
Ireland almost had a monopoly on momentum in the first-half. They looked focused and determined from the outset, opting to kick a penalty to the corner in the early minutes instead of the easier three points.
The visitors turned over possession at that lineout but it mattered little - France kicked hurriedly and waywardly, allowing Ireland to maintain the kind of territory that should have registered more scores.
Their first points came on 14 minutes and Jonathan Sexton steadied himself, after a cheap shot from France lock Yoann Maestri, to put Ireland ahead.
Ireland's failure to convert that pressure into points will have frustrated coach Joe Schmidt who watched his side accrue injuries rather than tries through a bruising 40 minutes.
And the attrition began to cost.
Ireland lost Sean O'Brien at the end of the first quarter after he broke down while attempting to step inside the French defensive cover and Dave Kearney somehow shook off a high tackle before departing after another hit minutes later.
France replied through a penalty from Plisson, which was enough to keep them in the game until they found their stride late on.
By then Ireland had lost lock Mike McCarthy to a sickening clash of heads with Sexton forced to depart for Ian Madigan.
France did not suffer the same injuries and that was crucial in this ugly contest.