Ireland 26-14 France: Bonus-point win keeps Ireland's Six Nations hopes alive
Six Nations goes down to the final weekend
Last Updated: 11/03/19 11:23am
Ireland produced a dominant display to keep their Six Nations hopes alive with a crucial bonus-point 26-14 win over France on Sunday.
France were in complete disarray and barely strung an attack together as Ireland built on their power game to score four tries.
Rory Best, Jonathan Sexton and Jack Conan scored in the first half while Keith Earls went over in the second.
Sexton added three conversions.
France did score two late tries through Yoann Huget and Arthur Iturria to give the scoreboard some credibility but they were soundly beaten in all aspects of the game.
Ireland will head to Cardiff next Saturday to take on Grand Slam-chasing Wales. A bonus-point win for them at the Principality stadium plus England slipping up against Scotland could yet hand Joe Schmidt's men the 2019 title.
Ireland's blistering start was rewarded with an early try as captain Best ploughed over after a penalty lineout and Sexton converted for a 7-0 lead.
Ireland: 15 Larmour (6), 14 Earls (8), 13 Ringrose (8), 12 Bundee (7), 11 Stockdale (6), 10 Sexton (8), 9 Murray (7); 1 Healy (7), 2 Best (8), 3 Furlong (8), 4 Henderson(8), 5 Ryan(8), 6 O'Mahony (8), 7 van der Flier (7), 8 Stander(8).
Subs: 16 Scannell (6), 17 Kilcoyne (6), 18 Ryan (6), 19 Dillane (6), 20 Conan (7), 21 Cooney (6), 22 Carty (6), 23 Conway (6).
France: 15 Ramos (5), 14 Penaud (5), 13 Bastareaud (5), 12 Fickou (5), 11 Huget (5), 10 Ntamack (5), 9 Dupont (5); 1 Poirot (5), 2 Guirado (5), 3 Bamba (5), 4 Vahaamahina (5), 5 Lambey (5), 6 Lauret (5), 7 Iturria (6), 8 Picamoles (5).
Subs: 16 Chat (5), 17 Falgoux (5), 18 Aldegheri (4), 19 Willemse (5), 20 Alldritt (5), 21 Serin (5), 22 Belleau (5), 23 Medard (5).
Man of the match: James Ryan
France did have a try chalked off two minutes later after replays showed a knock-on in the build-up, but that was as good as it got for France in the first half as Ireland kept them pegged back defending their own line.
Best's decision to opt for the corner as France conceded multiple penalties finally paid off on the half-hour mark when Sexton went over for their second try. It was a classic Sexton wrap-around that created the space in the midfield and he was through and under the posts.
Gary Ringrose's effort was scratched off after he claimed a Sexton bomb and slid over only for replays to show he had knocked it on, However moments later Jack Conan powered over after another patient build-up. Sexton's conversion made it 19-0 at the break.
France were slightly better in the second half and did manage to get through a few attacking phases but Ireland would not give an inch and with each knock-on or turn over, their resolve seemed to evaporate.
Keith Earls scored the crucial bonus-point try on the 56th minute as he burst through the middle after a solid lineout and it got worse for France after prop Dorian Aldegheri was yellow carded for persistent infringements at the scrum.
With the game already won, France did manage two consolation scores in the final three minutes of the game, but it was far too little and far too late to threaten Ireland's dominance.
Ireland's quick start really got them onto the front foot and from there they did not look back. Skipper Best marked his final Six Nations match in Dublin before his intended retirement at the end of the calendar year in style, with a try and another top performance.
Ireland's were much better with their power game and really took the game to the French. James Ryan, Iain Henderson, CJ Stander and Tadhg Furlong all put their hands up to carry strongly and get them on the front foot.
France were once again void of any ideas in another disappointing display from Les Bleus. On top of that their discipline was poor and were lucky not to concede more than one yellow card.
They say that defence wins matches but France had to make over 200 tackles against Ireland and in the second half, when they finally did manage to get their hands on the ball, battled to get any momentum or phases together. They did score two late tries in the second half but the game was over by then and it was against a much-changed Ireland side winding down the game.
Ireland will be unhappy letting in those two late tries but overall it was a commanding performance from them.