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Ireland clinch Six Nations championship after clinging on in Paris

Joe Schmidt’s men are top dogs after a stirring performance at Stade de France.

Paul O'Connell lifts the Six Nations trophy.
Paul O'Connell lifts the Six Nations trophy.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

France 20

Ireland 22

IRELAND SURVIVED A huge video replay and scrummaging scare at the death to defeat France and clinch the Six Nations championship.

Tries from Jonny Sexton [2] and Andrew Trimble proved crucial, despite some missed kicks at goal, and frantic defence in the closing stages was needed to end a five-year wait for silverware. An emotional Brian O’Driscoll played from start to finish and joked that it was “farcical” after he collected his second man-of-the-match award in a week.

France hit the front after two minutes when Ireland openside Chris Henry was penalised for not releasing. Maxime Machenaud’s, Sexton’s goal-kicking understudy at Racing Métro, slotted the ball over to make it 3-0. An isolated Dave Kearney was the next Irishman to be pinged by Steve Walsh and Machenaud extended the lead.

Louis Picamoles was in rampaging form as he knocked Paul O’Connell back when the lock attempted to shut him down. O’Driscoll attempted to stop Dimitri Szarzewski in his tracks and needed treatment for a cut to the eye. Ireland maintained their composure, however, and scored on their first, extended trip to the French 22. Chris Henry flicked a lovely pass to Sexton off the back of a strong maul and the out-half dived over. He missed his conversion to the right of the posts.

Irish hopes soared after 27 minutes after Conor Murray sniped off a ruck, following a fantastic O’Driscoll line break. The scrum-half found Trimble in support and the winger dotted down by the posts. Sexton chipped over the extras and Ireland led 12-6.

TRIMBLE Source: RTE

France edged ahead after 30 minutes when Remi Talé’s cross-field kick found Yoann Huget on the right wing. He sprung higher than Rob Kearney and batted the ball down for teammate Brice Dulin to pouch and dive over. Machenaud added a composed touchline conversion. Ireland had the opportunity to go into the sheds two points up at half-time but Sexton missed a penalty — from the same spot as his first conversion effort — to the left of the posts.

France began the second-half at break-neck speed but Paul O’Connell’s breakdown steal brought Ireland relief and field position. A kicking war ensued for two minutes until, with 47 on the clock, Trimble broke at pace up the right flank. The Derry native should have backed himself but passed to O’Driscoll, who was hauled down short of the line. O’Connell kept Ireland on the front foot as he arrived on the scene and Murray reached the ruck to pop a pass for Sexton to grasp possession and jog over to touch down under the posts. He added the conversion and a nerve-jangling penalty on 52 minutes.

France struck back after 62 minutes following sustained pressure on the Irish line. Cian Healy was fortunate not to be yellow carded for going off his feet in an effort to stop Picamoles but it mattered not as Szarzewski bulled his way to the post and scrambled over. Machenaud chipped over the conversion as Joe Schmidt freshened up his troops, bringing on Iain Henderson, Marty Moore and Eoin Reddan.

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Devin Toner Paul O'Connell was immense for the Irish cause. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland lost Sexton on 68 minutes as he was felled by Mathieu Bastareaud, who led with an elbow when confronted with the out-half. Ian Madigan came on in his place for his first involvement in the tournament. The Leinster man’s first task was to watch an Irish scrum implode and Jean-Marc Doussain badly miss a penalty attempt from 35m.

Doussain went in from the side, with five minutes on the clock, after excellent burrowing ruck work from Henderson. Ireland won the line-out and sought to play the game out in the French half. Two minutes were eaten up but Walsh pinged Henderson for going off his feet. France could not find touch with their penalty but Rob Kearney chose to pump an up-and-under that he lost to Bastareaud. Damien Chouly thought he had clinched the game but, with Ireland relieved, the video official called it forward.

A final scrum needed to be won. It was lost against the head but O’Connell and Devin Toner combined to win a penalty at the death and capture a famous win.

Scorers for Ireland

  • Tries: Sexton (2), Trimble
  • Conversions: Sexton (2)
  • Penalties: Sexton

Scorers for France

  • Tries: Dulin, Szarzewski
  • Conversions: Machenaud (2)
  • Penalties: Machenaud (2)
France: B Dulin; Y Huget, M Bastareaud, G Fickou (M Mermoz), M Medard; R Tales, (JM Doussain); T Domingo (V Debaty), D Szarzewski (G Guirado), N Mas (R Slimani), P Pape (capt.), Y Maestri (A Flanquart), L Picamoles (S Vahaamahina), A Lapandry, D Chouly.

Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy (F McFadden), D Kearney; J Sexton (I Madigan), C Murray (E Reddan): C Healy (J McGrath), R Best (S Cronin), M Ross (M Moore); D Toner, P O’Connell (capt.) P O’Mahony (I Henderson), C Henry, J Heaslip.

Replacements: J Murphy.

Referee: Steve Walsh (ARU)

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Patrick McCarry

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