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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019
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Hello, good afternoon, bonjour (as they say in La Republique) and very welcome along to our minute-by-minute coverage of Ireland v France, the fourth match for each side in this year’s Six Nations championship.

There’s a wind blowing, a chill in the air and while the sun has shone in Dublin, there’s a smattering of snow about the country.  So whether you’re on your way down Lansdowne Road or watching from home, get something warm into you and get well wrapped up and ready for what promises to be a bruising battle against France (kick-off 3pm).

Before we go any further, we’ve a late change to mention. Rob Kearney has been forced to withdraw, with Jordan Larmour handed the 15 shirt and Andrew Conway brought in among the replacements.

Ireland:

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Niall Scannell
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. John Ryan
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Jack Conan
21. John Cooney
22. Jack Carty
23. Andrew Conway

France:

15. Thomas Ramos
14. Damien Penaud
13. Mathieu Bastareaud
12. Gael Fickou
11. Yoann Huget
10. Romain Ntamack
9. Antoine Dupont

1. Jefferson Poirot
2. Guilhem Guirado (captain)
3. Demba Bamba
4. Felix Lambey
5. Sebastien Vahaamahina
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Arthur Iturria
8. Louis Picamoles

Replacements:

16. Camille Chat
17. Etienne Falgoux
18. Dorian Aldegheri
19. Paul Willemse
20. Gregory Alldritt
21. Baptiste Serin
22. Anthony Belleau
23. Maxime Medard

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe [New Zealand].

A view of the match programme ahead of the game Poor Bob was on the programme cover and all. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Now, you’re probably aware that Ireland have been struggling a little during this Championship. And by struggling we mean they’ve claimed nine points from a possible 15 after two wins from three.

Our recent history against Les Bleus would suggest that today’s Test will be a bit of a slog too, but a win would keep Joe Schmidt’s slender hope of a parting Six Nations title alive for another week. However, France’s very recent history makes it seem like they actually have their act together.

The final competitive home Test for Schmidt, probably captain Rory Best and possibly one or two others is set to be a ferociously intense one.

I’d give you an updated weather report, but it would probably be out of date by the time I clicked publish. Snow was swirling around the Aviva as we took our seats, but the bright sunshine has re-emerged before the teams went back to the changing room.

Judging by the clouds, there could be a few more changes in store before this one’s out.

The fireworks are almost spent, the anthems are upon us. It’s almost time to get this match underway.

If I was nudged into a prediction, it’d be Ireland to win by 3-10 points… maybe 19-13.

KICK-OFF:  Ntamack gets us under way and Ireland grab an upper hand through the kick exchange as Stockdale gives a good chase to a kick into the 22.

O’Mahony claims the line-out and France are penalised after the first maul, so we go back…

4Mins

Ireland’s pack lay down a huge early marker with just two minutes on the board.

Henderson claims the line-out, Best carries off the back of the maul and ploughs through two tacklers to plant down.

Sexton nails the touchline conversion to make it

Ireland 7 France 0

6Mins

Hold everything. France think they have an instant riposte as Ramos out-jumps Jordan Larmour on a cross-field kick from Ntamack.

An offload later, they’re under the posts, but the TMO makes it clear the Toulouse man knocked on in his aerial battle with Larmour.

Bundee Aki and Conor Murray with Gregory Alldritt and Felix Lambey Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

9Mins

That’s a tough first high ball for Larmour, bu big Jacob Stockdale fares slightly better the next time one is hoisted, he bats back in from the sideline and Ireland play from halfway.

Schmidt’s men show some decent ambition, probing back and forth until Stockdale opts to chip ahead and his boot overcooks the ball.

CJ Stander was welcomed back to competitive action by a thumping hit from Penaud during that set of phases. He’ll enjoy that.

10Mins

10 mins: Lauret hobbles off injured for France to be replaced by Gregory Aldritt. That’s another blow for the visitors.

O’Mahony, during the injury stoppage, asks politely why play is delayed for the injury in the back field.

He’s keen to keep moving in the cold.

14Mins

Ireland shade the scrum set with a free-kick win. Sexton launches high and Penaud spills.

Sexton again uses an advantage play to kick to the right early, but Huget comfortably claims in his 22 and marks… but his clearance is a shocker and so Ireland can attack with a line-out from 30 metres.

14Mins

We’re with the TMO because Conor Murray thinks Cian Healy’s repeated his trick from Munster’s win over Toulon last year, a dive onto a loose ball on the try-line.

16Mins

No try. Knock on byHealy.

The attacking set had been a decent one from Ireland with big carries from Henderson and Furlong plus a good line from Ringrose off a short Sexton pass.

Jordan Larmour was hit hard as he tried to side-step and was turned over. From there Healy was just a little far out of range to steal the score.

20Mins

France have to work hard to get out of their own territory and Ireland double their work once it becomes green ball.

The pressure tells through a penalty as France go off their feet. Sexton shuns a kick at goal and we’re back in the corner.

It’s been a profitable area for Ireland already.

21Mins

O’Mahony takes the line-out again and Ireland maul. France are well set and rebuff, though not without conceding another penalty for Sexton to kick to the corner.

22Mins

Rory Best’s line-out is overthrown this time and Sexton knocks on at the tail. France will bid to exit via the scrum again.

A blow for Ireland now as Josh van der Flier is forced out of the game after 24 minutes.

Jack Conan comes in for the openside, presumably Peter O’Mahony will shift to 7.

26Mins

Big try chance for Ireland as Ringrose deftly steps and hits Larmour out wide, but the delay on the pass is just enough for France to cover across.

Another penalty comes for Ireland and a referee’s warning is passed through Guirado before Ireland seek the corner again.

29Mins

This is an incredibly long run of time for Ireland to be in French territory, but they have been unable to add a second score in that time.

A combination of excellent French defence, a resistance to kick goals and running angles that haven’t quite been able to cut through. Will the hosts be left to rue this period?

There’s the answer for my big fat mouth.

A much tidier set-play from Ireland as they build off the maul and go with with Ringrose behind the screen with Sexton running the loop around and then beyond the tackler and the try-line.

Ireland 14 France 0

34Mins

33 mins: Rory Best is incensed as France run hard into Tadhg Furlong as he lifts Peter O’Mahony on the restart and knock both men to the ground dangerously.

Once cool heads return, Garry Ringrose brings the crowd to their feet with a brilliant Garryowen take from a high ball and he slides in under the posts.

Unfortunately, there is just enough pressure on him to force a knock on inches from the line.

36Mins

TRY! Ireland 19 France 0 (Conan ’36)

38Mins

Ireland are really humming now and France, you feel are feeling the effects of playing almost this whole half in their own half of the field.

Henderson ripped the pill free and into Ireland’s possession and the attack grabbed a third try after a big carry from Bundee Aki was followed by by Jack Conan.

Sexton isn’t able to bring his own personal tally to double figures, but it’ll come.

Flag

HALF-TIME: Ireland 19 France 0

This is the Ireland we knew in 2018. They’ve gone about their business in ruthless fashion and have pinned France back into their own half with strong defence and fierce breakdown work.

Ireland’s second try today was a bit of a landmark for Johnny Sexton, ending a run of 30 Tests through three and a half years since he last scored a five-pointer – in the World Cup opener against Canada.

Must say, we didn’t really notice he wasn’t scoring tries while he was guiding Ireland to Grand Slams and wins over the ABs.

41Mins

The Second Half is off and running in D’Aviva. 

France attempting to attack from deep but Ireland keep that firm green wall in tact until a high tackle call finally brings a relief of territorial pressure.

43Mins

Basta gets his first real chance to build up some steam, but it’s a circuitous route around to Ireland’s right wing and the two-man tackle gets him down.

Still, France are on the attack and they probe back towards their right wing until Ringrose slaps the ball out of Dupont’s hands.

‘Great fucking D!’ is the shout from Tadhg Furlong.

45Mins

Scrum functions well for Ireland, but Stockdale’s clearing kick is off the side of his big left boot and invites a little more pressure from Les Bleus.

49Mins

Lovely early wide pass from NTamack gives Ramos and Huget a chance to go in tandem down Ireland’s left, but they are well covered by Earls and Ringrose.

Bamba knocks on the next time Ntamack attempts a fizzer and Ireland see off another brief bout of French pressure.

The sun has disappeared behind some dank grey clouds in Dublin 4 and Ireland’s line-out doesn’t give the springboard they wanted as France force a penalty at the breakdown for holding on.

Iain Henderson lucky it’s not marched forward 10 as he kicks the ball gently away with Guirado shouting ‘we want to play’.

52Mins

The defence stands firm again and forces a penalty, now it’s time for fresh blood in the pack. Dave Kilcoyne is in for Cian Healy.

From the line-out, Ireland go wide nice and early with Earls racing left and grubbering in behind.

Stockdale leads the chase as Penaud gathers, but Ringrose smashes him behind the line. ScrumV

55Mins

Aki’s pass for Ringrose was just a little off as Sexton tries to run a tight loop play in attack but the penalty comes and with it another attacking line-out for Ireland.

France survive again, however, as a Murray pass finds its way into the face of Peter O’Mahony. A row ensues, and the Corkman can be heard calling an opponent a muppett.

Not quite as ex-rated as his live mic squabble against England.

26Mins

There’s the full five points for Ireland. The maul is again the launching point, but this time from outside the 22 as Stander peels off and sends Keith Earls racing through the gap with a tidy reverse pass.

63Mins

Thanks to that big fat nil on the scoreboard fro France, we’re starting in to record territory now for Ireland.

Ireland’s record home winning margin over France before today was 24 points, dating all the way back to 1913.

The record points tally against Les Bleus is within reach too. 2006′s 31 at is the best it’s been – and if memory serves, that was a loss in Paris.

66Mins

As the teams get stuck into eachother for another mini-schemozzle, another stat: France were last kept to nil in the Five Nations in 1990, by Scotland.. but we’re getting ahead of ourselves now.

Still 14 minutes to stick to the processes.

68Mins

Penalties are still racking up for France and Aldegheri pays the price with a sin-bin.

Louis Picamoles will leave the field as Ireland opt to scrum from the penalty.

70Mins

Guirado is adjudged to have won that scrum cleanly with a hook. France clear their lines and Ireland’s counter lacks a bit of bite as Stockdale boots towards the goal-line. It’s overcooked again.

72Mins

Jordan Larmour is certainly finding space to play out there.

The fullback races through a gap and brilliantly cuts against the grain. But he tries to repeat the trick rather than pass and gets hit hard by a covering tackle and is turned over.

Very entertaining.

75Mins

Here come France.

After announcing their return to form last time out, they will loathe to be held scoreless in this contest. You can see a little added intent in their carry and with a penalty won 45 metres out, Ntamack goes to the corner.

Big moment for the historical winning margins, this.

77Mins

TRY! Ireland 26 France 7 (Huget ’77)

There’s big Ultan Dillane with a line-out steal to bat the blues back once more… but hark! After Ireland clear their lines, the visitors finally find their cutting edge in attack as Aldritt gets through a gap and has Huget flying up on his shoulder en route to the posts.

78Mins

The crowd upped and left in their droves after France’s first try and they look like they’ve gone and grabbed another one to put a gloss on the final margin.

TMO will just double check

80Mins

TRY! Ireland 26 France 12 (Iturria ’80)

It’s given, France bully their way over to make it a 12-point game at the finish, but in truth from midway through the first half it was clear that Ireland would comfortably win out.

FULL-TIME Ireland 26 France 14

So Ireland hang in there with 14 Championship points on the board behind England (15) and Wales (16), Schmidt’s men go on to Cardiff knowing they still have a shot at the title if they can halt the Welsh run to a Grand Slam.

But England, and their superior points difference (83 to Ireland’s 19 and Wales’ 31) , will have plenty to say about the destination of the trophy too.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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