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Ireland imperious and come out on top of brutal clash with France

Job done.

Ireland 24

France 9

Sean Farrell reports from the Millennium Stadium

IT WAS HARD going – by God it was hard going – but Ireland sealed top spot in Rugby World Cup Pool D with an enormously physical and downright brave performance in Cardiff.

Rob Kearney celebrates his try with Tommy Bowe, Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Joe Schmidt’s men somehow managed to withstand everything France could throw at them and the loss of the pillars of the pack and the backs – Paul O’Connell and Jonathan Sexton – and strike for two tries of their own from Rob Kearney and Conor Murray.

Ireland had to play without Sexton for 55 minutes as the out-half appeared to injure his groin after chasing his own loose kick. The in-the-line-of-fire 10 was tentative for the minutes that followed, but took his place back in the line, only to be smashed by Louis Picamoles in the final act of his day.

France had missed two kicks at goal by the time Sexton opened his and Ireland’s account in the 13th minute. But fullback Scott Spedding soon got the radar right from distance and the score was six apiece before Madigan kicked his first of the day.

As the teams ran in at half-time the scoreboard read 9 – 6, but Ireland had lost their two most important players. Paul O’Connell twisted his knee badly in the centre of the field and it was clear his race was run when he writhed in agony after attempting to get back to his feet.

Joe Schmidt Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

For all the wounded soldiers, Ireland’s strike-plays continued to give the game best try-scoring chances. The first-half lead would have been more commanding had Keith Earls not dropped Tommy Bowe’s pass with the line begging to be crossed.

Robbie Henshaw created that break for Bowe and his individual skill created the second half opening too. A wonderful step in and out of contact. Once there, he turned and attempted to pass wide for Bowe, but it was behind the wing and the chance was lost… briefly.

From the resulting French knock-on, Ireland packed down and began to batter into bodies on the line. The breakthrough came at last when Conor Murray used Iain Henderson and the open side as a dummy and instead attacked short side where Kearney blasted through Freddy Michalak to the euphoria of the Irish in Cardiff.

Though Madigan missed the conversion and Morgan Parra reduced the deficit to five, Ireland looked in imperious form with Sean O’Brien tormenting the French attack at every turn.

The euphoria was heightened and the ole oles rang around the ground when Murray touched the ball on the post to score Ireland’s second try after big carries from Devin Toner and Rory Best. Madigan’s late, long penalty was simply the icing on the cake.

The win means that Schmidt’s men will meet Argentina in the quarter-finals, while France are pitted in to a rematch of their 2007 quarter-final against reigning champions New Zealand.

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Scorers

Ireland

Tries: R Kearney, C Murray

Conversions: I Madigan

Penalties: J Sexton (2), I Madigan (2)

France

Penalties: S Spedding (2), Parra

Teams

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls (Fitzgerald ’60), Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Jonathan Sexton (Madigan ’27), Conor Murray:

Cian Healy (McGrath ’57), Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (Capt.) (Henderson ’40); Peter O’Mahony (Henry ’55), Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Nathan White, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan , Luke Fitzgerald.

France: Scott Spedding; Noa Nakaitaci, Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin; Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Tillous-Borde:

Eddy Ben Arous, Guilhem Guirado (Kayser ’59), Rabah Slimani; Pascal Pape, Yoann Maestri; Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Damien Chouly, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Alexandre Flanquart, Bernard Le Roux,  Morgan Parra, Remi Tales, Alexandre Dumoulin

Referee: Nigel Owens.

How we rated Ireland in the Pool decider against France

Ireland will meet NZ / ARG in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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