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Farrell's Ireland come up short as France hold on for Six Nations win in Dublin

The home side battled hard in the closing minutes but have now lost two from two in this championship.

Ireland 13

France 15

THERE WERE MOMENTS when it looked like Ireland would be swept away and that things might get ugly. France will certainly look back and reflect that they were the ones who kept Andy Farrell’s side in it for longer than necessary.

damian-penaud-scores-a-try Damian Penaud scores for France. Source: Jmaes Crombie/INPHO

Somehow, Ireland were still in with a sniff of a championship-rescuing win with the clock in the red but the jarring reality is that they have lost their opening two games of the 2021 Six Nations.

The last time that happened was all the way back in 1998 when this championship was the Five Nations. 

Farrell can point out that Ireland came very close to a first-half try through James Lowe but they failed to take advantage of a yellow card for France lock Bernard le Roux, actually losing that 10-minute period 7-0 as les Bleus swept to a stunning try through captain Charles Ollivon.

Missing a raft of frontline players in skipper Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, and Caelan Doris, this was always going to be an uphill battle for Ireland, who again showed spirit and fight. But their only try of the game was, in truth, a lucky one.

Billy Burns, stepping in at 10 in place of Sexton, had a poor early penalty miss and was forced off with a head injury just after half time, with replacement Ross Byrne performing creditably and looking composed.

Jamison Gibson-Park deputised for Murray at scrum-half and kicked well at times, yet he will be disappointed with his defensive effort for Ollivon’s first-half try. 

Ultimately, everything looked so difficult for Ireland and it always appeared that France could cut loose with their array of attacking threats. They only did so twice with major success, with wing Damian Penaud dotting down in the second half, but it was enough to give them scoreboard space as Ireland rallied late on. 

Next up for Farrell and co. is a visit to Rome in two weekends’ time, when Ireland will need to ensure no slip-ups as they now look to ensure they are not in the bottom two on the Six Nations table in March. 

billy-burns-is-tackled-by-gabin-villiere Billy Burns scores Ireland's only points of the first half. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With their lineout defence prominent early on – Rhys Ruddock and Tadhg Beirne both stole French throws – Ireland had a solid start but there was frustration at missing a half-chance wide on the left when Hugo Keenan’s pass was poor and Rob Herring knocked-on.

The French had the first shot at goal 10 minutes in after a sloppy Ireland maul set-up saw the ball spilled and Ollivon jackaled to win a turnover penalty that Jalibert missed from 40 metres out. 

There was more disappointment for Ireland in attack as CJ Stander was stripped of the ball by Gaël Fickou down in the French 22 and then Burns had a poor miss off the tee in the 16th minute after Mohamed Haouas went off his feet to seal off the breakdown.

The Ulsterman was wide with a kickable shot from the right of the posts, although he did slot an easier chance as the game entered the second quarter, punishing Bernard le Roux for failing to roll away.

Ireland’s 3-0 lead seemed to be improved by le Roux’s yellow card for a daft trip on Keith Earls as the wing chased one of Ireland’s regular contestable kicks, but instead Farrell’s men lost the next 10 minutes on a 0-7 scoreline.

They did, admittedly, nearly score immediately after the sin-binning as excellent passes from Gibson-Park and Burns sent Keenan racing into space and he fed James Lowe out on the left touchline, where it initially looked like he had finished powerfully. But the TMO review showed that Brice Dulin and Fickou had done enough to just force Lowe’s left foot onto the touchline. 

james-lowe-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-keith-earls-that-is-later-disallowed James Lowe nearly scored for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Henderson then almost picked off the ensuing five-metre lineout overthrow only to knock-on. France cleared their lines and then turned on the class the next time they had a lineout to strike off.

After a direct midfield carry, out-half Jalibert darted at the line and offloaded inside to hooker Julien Marchand, whose offload in turn found Dupont, the scrum-half then lofting an overhead pass out to Damian Penaud on the right and inside Ireland’s 22.

On the next phase, Jalibert swept a long pass wide to Fickou on the bounce and the inside centre darted to the outside shoulder of Rhys Ruddock, with Gibson-Park biting up and in too easily to allow Fickou to slip the ball over his head to Ollivon, left unmarked to stride home from 20 metres out.

Jalibert converted just before le Roux returned and the French could have had a second score before half time only for Paul Willemse to knock-on in Ireland’s 22 after more sharp attack. They did manage to tack another three points from Jalibert in the closing minutes of the half after Cian Healy was penalised for not rolling away.

The visitors’ 10-3 lead should have been extended within a minute of the restart as Marchand burst through Rob Herring and Josh van der Flier and Lowe had to stop him just metres out. France should have scored on the next phase but Dupont’s pass came rocketing off the head of Paul Willemse and Ireland breathed a sigh of relief.

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charles-ollivon-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-antoine-dupont France celebrate Charles Ollivon's try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Burns then departed with for a head injury assessment that he didn’t return from, with Byrne coming on, and Ireland biriefly also lost Cian Healy and Iain Henderson – who both returned from their HIAs – a minute later as their heads collided nastily on the far side of a tackle. 

Dulin was next to put the ball down for the French in a promising position as Ireland held on and Farrell’s men battled to create chances without ever looking likely to take them – with a promising a Keith Earls break followed by Gibson-Park losing the ball forward.

Dupont kicked that turnover possession in behind Ireland and Lowe knocked the ball on attempting to cover across and field it, with France finally striking from the resulting scrum.

They carried directly to win penalty advantage and then Jalibert flung a long pass wide to Dulin on the right, where he stepped inside Lowe, then fended Ed Byrne and popped the ball away to Penaud, who finished in the right corner for an unconverted try and a 15-3 lead.

Earls was tackled in the air by Ollivon as he won Byrne’s short restart, though, and Ireland kicked down the right, where they lost the lineout to Ollivon but the ball bounced up to Ronan Kelleher, just on at hooker, and he charged home down the right to score. 

garry-ringrose-is-tackled-by-gregory-alldritt Garry Ringrose carries for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Byrne converted to leave Ireland just five points behind heading into the final quarter and all of a sudden, Farrell’s men had a sniff.

With Tadhg Furlong making an impact from the bench, they won a penalty for Willemse’s high tackle on Byrne and the Leinster man calmly slotted his shot at goal from 40 metres out for 15-13.

A loose kick from Lowe, flying out on the full, gave France a platform in the Ireland half, but they were loose in attack and Jalibert’s pass behind Teddy Thomas – just on for Penaud – prompted a knock-on.

The French got a chance off the tee with nine minutes left, Tadhg Beirne pinged for contact in the air on Ollivon at a lineout but Jalibert’s long-range effort came off the left post and, still, Ireland were in it. 

Will Connors made an impact off the bench as Ireland defended well inside their 22 and Ireland found the energy for one late attacking burst. 

With the clock in the red, they struggled into the French half but one final turnover sealed the deal for Galthié’s men.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Ronan Kelleher

Conversions: Ross Byrne [1 from 1]

Penalties: Billy Burns [1 from 2], Ross Byrne [1 from 1]

France scorers:

Tries: Charles Ollivon, Damian Penaud

Conversions: Matthieu Jalibert [1 from 2] 

Penalties: Matthieu Jalibert [1 from 2]

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls (Jordan Larmour ’68), Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Billy Burns (Ross Byrne ’42), Jamison Gibson Park; Cian Healy (HIA – Ed Byrne ’43 ’56, permanent ’70), Rob Herring (Ronan Kelleher ’56), Andrew Porter (Tadhg Furlong ’53); Tadhg Beirne (Ultan Dillane ’73), Iain Henderson (captain) (Ultan Dillane ’43); Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier (Will Connors ’66), CJ Stander.

Replacements: Craig Casey.

FRANCE: Brice Dulin; Damien Penaud (Teddy Thomas ’67), Arthur Vincent, Gaël Fickou, Gabin Villière; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont (Baptiste Serin); Cyril Baille (Hassane Kolingar ’59), Julien Marchand (Pierre Bourgarit ’75), Mohamed Haouas (Uini Atonio ’75); Bernard Le Roux (yellow card ’24), Paul Willemse (Romain Taofifénua ’70); Anthony Jelonch (Dylan Cretin ’67), Charles Ollivon (captain), Grégory Alldritt.

Replacements: Anthony Bouthier.

Referee: Luke Pearce [RFU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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