France took a major step towards a first Six Nations title in a decade by claiming a 30-24 victory over rivals Ireland in Paris on Saturday.
Scotland’s loss to Wales earlier in the day meant that the winner of the match at the Stade de France would be the only unbeaten side left in the competition.
It was France who proved to be too strong and too clinical on home soil, with the win putting them four points clear at the top of the table.
France next face Scotland in Edinburgh, while Ireland will have the opportunity to bounce back against Italy in Dublin.
The hosts got off to a flying start as Romain Ntamack offloaded on his inside to put halfback partner Antoine Dupont over for the opening try in the first minute of play. Melvyn Jaminet nailed the conversion and a penalty to put France 10-0 up after six minutes.
However, continuing the breathless start to the match in his second Test appearance, Mack Hansen snatched the ball out of the air straight from the subsequent kick-off to make it 10-7 and bring Ireland right back into the contest.
France’s pack was giving plenty of problems at the scrum, while Ireland put the French outside backs under plenty of pressure under the high ball.
Jaminet kept the scoreboard ticking over and ensured France got something out of their dominance with another three penalties putting them 19-7 up at the break.
Miscommunication from Jamison Gibson-Park and Andrew Conway resulted in another penalty early in the second half and Jaminet again converted from a difficult angle to make it a 15-point deficit.
However, first Josh van der Flier and then Gibson-Park scored a try each in a matter of eight minutes to suddenly bring Ireland to within a couple of points of the lead.
The thriller continued unabated when, in a loose ruck in Ireland’s 22, France regained possession and punished that error when prop Cyril Baille bashed his way over to score.
After an end-to-end period of play, an intense finish was set up when Ireland decided to go for poles from a penalty outside France’s 22, which Carbery converted to make it a three-point game with seven minutes to play.
Jaminet thought he had scored the decisive try with two minutes to play, but a TMO review showed he was held up by an incredible try-saving tackle from Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan. The France fullback, however, did kick his sixth penalty to give his side enough of a buffer to see out the win.
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