Maxime Médard scored a 70th-minute try as France beat Ireland 10-9 in Paris on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The first hour of this match was forgettable, to be polite. The rain, which became heavier at half-time, made conditions difficult for both sides and contributed towards the high number of handling errors.
But France, trailing 9-3, then lifted the tempo and took the ball through 15 phases before being held up over the line. Three times, they were awarded a penalty at the 5m scrum, and three times they opted to pack down again.
Replacement scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud then darted away from the back of the scrum, drew Ireland centre Jonathan Danty and put Médard away for a try under the posts. Jules Plisson slotted the conversion to put his side into the lead for the first time in the match, and that's the way it stayed.
It is the second consecutive narrow win for France, following their 23-21 victory against Italy, while back-to-back Six Nations champions Ireland, who drew 16-16 with Wales, remain winless.
The Irish suffered two injury setbacks in the first half, with flanker Sean O'Brien pulling a hamstring while attempting a side-step and winger Dave Kearney damaging a shoulder while being tackled.
However, the visitors were still able to dominate possession and territory, with three penalties from Johnny Sexton giving them a 9-3 lead. However, you got the feeling it might not be enough, and so it proved in the second half.
France substituted both props, Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot, after 45 minutes and hooker and captain Guilhem Guirado followed them soon after as coach Guy Novès looked to strengthen the scrum.
The replacements had the desired effect. The hosts soon worked their way back into the game, with four powerful scrums eventually resulting in the match-winning try.
France – Try: Maxime Médard. Conversion: Jules Plisson. Penalty: Plisson.
Ireland – Penalty: Johnny Sexton (3).
France – 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Maxine Mermoz, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Yacouba Camara, 7 Damieb Chouly, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Eddy Ben Arous, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Hugo Bonneval.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Nathan White, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 James Cronin, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP Photo