Ireland clinch Six Nations title

Jonny Sexton scored two tries as Ireland beat France 22-20 in Paris and secured the Six Nations crown.

What a fairytale ending for the legendary Brian O'Driscoll. This game marked his 141st and final Test for Ireland, and to end a fine career with the biggest prize in northern hemisphere rugby would have been a dream come true.

It would have been a memorable moment for O'Driscoll, and indeed every Ireland player. Sexton, however, will harbour ambivalent feelings about this game, as had Ireland lost to France this Saturday, the flyhalf would have been cast as the villain instead of the hero.

Ireland should have gone to the break with the lead, but a missed conversion and penalty by Sexton allowed France to finish the half with a 13-12 advantage.

The visitors upped the intensity at the beginning of the second half, and Sexton finished off a sweeping attack to claim his second try. A subsequent penalty goal by the flyhalf extended Ireland's lead to 22-13, and going into the final quarter, it appeared as though the Irish would hold their nerve.

It was a fine comeback by Ireland, and Sexton in particular.

France hit back with a dubious try by Dimitri Szarzewski in the 63rd minute. Television replays suggested that the France hooker had dropped the ball in the act of scoring the try, but the seven-pointer stood, and suddenly the hosts were back in the contest.

There was to be more drama when Sexton collided with Mathieu Bastareaud in the 69th minute and was stretchered off the field. France then won a scrum penalty, but reserve scrumhalf Jean-Marc Doussain missed the relatively simple goal attempt.

France had the Ireland defence stretched in the 79th minute, but the final pass was ruled forward by referee Steve Walsh. Ireland then managed to hang on to win the title and give O'Driscoll a dream sendoff.

France – Tries: Brice Dulin, Dimitri Szarzewski. Conversions: Maxime Machenaud (2). Penalties: Machenaud (2).
Ireland – Tries: Jonny Sexton (2), Andrew Trimble. Conversions: Sexton (2). Penalty: Sexton.

France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Remi Tálès, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Louis Picamoles, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé (c), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Subs:16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 21 Wenceslas Lauret, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Maxime Mermoz.

Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.

Photo: Julian Finney/ Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli