What's hot and what's not from the first match of the second round of the 2016 tournament.
Ireland‘s hopes of making it three RBS Six Nations titles on the bounce look all but dead after a 71st-minute try from Maxime Medard took France to a 10-9 victory over Joe Schmidt‘s team at the Stade de France, ending a five-game unbeaten run for Ireland in Paris.
In an infinitely forgettable first half, the only points came from the boot of the two fly-halves, with Johnny Sexton kicking three penalties to Jules Plisson‘s one, while Plisson missed a drop-goal and a penalty with the last kick of the half.
Where Ireland had dominated territory before the break, France turned it around in the second period and finally made the pressure count when, from the last of a series of scrums in the shadow of the Ireland posts, replacement scrum-half Maxime Machenaud broke to the right and Medard headed for a gap between Ian Madigan and Tommy O’Donnell, slipped O’Donnell’s tackle and scored the try which Plisson converted to secure the win.
France’s second half – The hosts struggled in the scrum in the first half and enjoyed very little territory, but they changed their props in the first five minutes of the second half, got the upper hand at scrum time and went on to win. Having gone ahead with ten minutes to play, the way they closed out the game without giving Ireland a sniff of a scoring chance was also impressive.
Ireland’s last-ditch defence – Yes, ultimately the men in green conceded a try, but not before Andrew Trimble had stuck out a hand to stop a potential scoring pass in its tracks on one wing, then made a try-saving tackle on Virimi Vakatawa on the other flank, while Rob Kearney did enough when Damien Chouly tried to dive over at the foot of the posts to stop the officials awarding a try after a long look at the replays.
My half -time cup of tea – Much-needed after a rather turgid first 40 minutes! Sadly the second half was only slightly better.
Skills and thrills – There was precious little to enjoy in this atritional battle. Yes, the conditions were wet, but at times the game seemed like a procession of knock-ons and scrums, big hits and not much else.
O’Brien’s injury – Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien was making a comeback from a hamstring injury, but only lasted 19 minutes as he hurt his knee while sidestepping his way through the France defence and had to be replaced by Tommy O’Donnell. Dave Kearney, Johnny Sexton and Mike McCarthy were among the other casualties.
Maestri’s late hit – France lock Yoann Maestri might find himself in trouble with the disciplinary officials in the coming days after he made a late shoulder charge into the back of Johnny Sexton during the first half. It was right under the nose of referee Jaco Peyper but he did not penalise Maestri.
85 – Ireland only managed to carry the ball 85 times in the match, compared to 155 carries by France. They made one offload to France’s 17.
16 – Tommy O’Donnell was the top tackler in the game with 16, while Jared Payne made 15.
72 – France had 72% of territory in the second half and 66% of possession.
France: M Medard; T Thomas (H Bonneval 44), M Mermoz, J Danty, V Vakatawa; J Plisson, S Bezy (M Machenaud 56); J Poirot (R Slimani 44), G Guirado (C Chat 47-57 and 74), U Atonio (E Ben Arous 44, J Poirot 73), A Flanquart, Y Maestri (P Jedrasiak 58), W Lauret, Y Camara (L Goujon 67), D Chouly.
Try: Medard; Con: Plisson; Pen: Plisson
Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, J Payne, R Henshaw, D Kearney (F McFadden 29); J Sexton (I Madigan 69), C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt, R Strauss 71)), N White (T Furlong 62), M McCarthy (D Ryan 34-40 and 62), D Toner, CJ Stander, S O’Brien (T O’Donnell 19), J Heaslip.
Pens: Sexton 3
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
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