Ireland recover to beat France

It finished 19-9 at the Aviva Stadium

BY Sinéad Farrell 19:04 Saturday 25 February 2017, 19:04 25 Feb 2017

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ireland overcame a shaky start to defeat France in the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium.

It was a compelling game, which saw Joe Schmidt's side recover from a six-point deficit to record a crucial win and revive their chances of winning the Six Nations championship.

A Conor Murray try accompanied by penalties from Johnny Sexton and Paddy Jackson as well as a drop goal from Sexton sealed the win in the end.

But they struggled to arrest control in the wet conditions. 

Ireland got off to a nervy start, as France asserted their dominance in the early phases. And it culminated in two penalties from the boot of Camille Lopez.

With the scores locked at 3-0, the visitors came close to landing the first try of the day when Remi Lamerat sprinted over Ireland's tryline. But the score was ruled out for a knock-on during the phase.

Ireland started to play after 20 minutes but careless handling errors prevented them from taking control of the contest.

Some lovely inter-play between Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose resulted in the former punting a high kick over the French cover for the on-running Keith Earls.

But the Munster player failed to get the vital touch to land the try, as French bodies bundled in to obstruct him, resulting in a five metre-scrum.

Image: Johnny Sexton 

Ireland didn't come away from the moment empty-handed. And on 30 minutes, we finally got points on the board with Conor Murray crossing the whitewash after Ireland smashed through the French defence. 

Sexton added the conversion and it proved to be a momentum-changing score that edged us into a one-point lead.

The subsequent minutes were frantic as Ireland found their rhythm and their confidence.

Joe Schmidt's side were awarded a penalty in a scoreable position, but rather than take a kick at goal, Sexton opted to take it quickly and Ireland pressed for another try.

But for all their rampaging power, Ireland failed to make the decisive breakthrough as France just about managed to withstand the pressure.

With the clock turning red, Ireland made another attempt to carve out a try, but a knock-on saw France regain possession and the scoreline read 7-6 to the hosts at the break.

Ireland continued to dictate the pace after the restart and a Johnny Sexton penalty after Murray was held up at the scrum, took us into a 10-6 lead. 

Sexton marked his triumphant return to the starting line-up with a stunning drop-goal to put us 13-6 ahead before landing another penalty to add a further three points to our advantage.

Image: Keith Earls contesting a ball.

Conor Murray excelled today, executing two kicks into touch with exceptional precision to keep us within touching distance of the French tryline.

There were moments of worry in the second half.

Ireland were working through the phases in search of a break for a try when France snatched a turnover and went on the counter-attack.

They advanced well but a fumble in the wet conditions saw Ireland regain possession and draw a sigh of relief. 

Sean O'Brien was withdrawn on 68 minutes to undergo a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) with Peter O'Mahony coming in as Ireland looked to steady the ship home at a crucial point in the game.

Amidst the subs being rolled on, Sexton was called ashore as Paddy Jackson - who deputised at No.10 in the opening two Six Nations games - took his place on the pitch. 

France got a reprieve in the closing minutes, with Lopez hitting a penalty to reduce the deficit to just seven points. But Jackson replied with his first kick from the tee after his introduction to widen the gap again to leave the final scoreline reading Ireland 19-9 France.

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