Ireland ended a run of seven straight losses to France by winning 30-21 in a thrilling match at Croke Park on the opening day of the Six Nations.
REUTERS - Ireland beat France for the first time in eight attempts on Saturday when a 30-21 victory gave coach Declan Kidney a perfect start in his Six Nations debut at Croke Park.
An exquisite try finished off by number eight Imanol Harnordoquy gave the visitors the early advantage but a fine reply by his opposite number Jamie Heaslip 20 minutes later handed Ireland a 13-10 halftime lead.
In an open second half of a thrilling match, Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll sliced through the French midfield early on to stretch the lead to 10 before wing Maxime Medard quickly struck back with a simple finish in the corner.
Replacement centre Gordon D'Arcy squirmed over for the home side's third try with 15 minutes to go and flyhalf Ronan O'Gara converted for a third time before adding a third penalty late on to put the home side out of site.
Ireland began at a significantly quicker pace than the corresponding fixture two years ago when they froze in the opening 20 minutes. Early forward pressure this time allowed O'Gara to kick a third minute penalty.
France flew straight back, initially creating a tight two-on-one on the left only for flanker Thierry Dusautoir to knock on at the subsequent attack across field. Ten minutes later they scored a try that is unlikely to be bettered in the coming weeks.
A break down the right was kept alive by wing Maxime Medard's deft chip through for play to swiftly switch flanks and allow opposite wing Julien Malzieu to just as delicately feed Harnordoquy in the corner.
Lionel Beauxis added the difficult two points only for hooker Dimitri Szarzewski to give away a silly penalty within seconds. O'Gara reduced the deficit to a point.
Ireland's plan to unsettle their opponents untested half back partnership, coach Mark Livermont's eightth in 10 games, was put into force midway through the half when an O'Driscoll hit on Beauxis left the Stade Francais man struggling to his feet.
Further French forward indiscipline gave O'Gara a third shot at goal but the Munster man badly underhit his kick wide to the right.
Ireland then regained the lead through a superb try of their own. Fullback Rob Kearney and wing Tommy Bowe evaded tackles on the left to set up play for Heaslip to provide the unlikeliest of sidesteps and zig-zag over from outside the 22.
O'Gara converted but more open French running and further Irish missed tackles allowed Beauxis to drop kick France to within three at the break.
The lead was stretched to 10 minutes after the restart when O'Driscoll reeled back the years to slice through a hole in the French midfield and sidestep fullback Clement Poitrenaud for his 33rd international try.
Six minutes later the ball broke fortuitously to Harnordoquy and the French number eight took full advantage when Beauxis's kick through left Medard one on one with replacement Rory Best.
The French 10 missed the subsequent conversion but when Ireland continued to kick the ball down to the dangerous back three in blue, he was set up for a second successful drop at goal.
O'Gara missed a difficult penalty to increase the lead but just when the game threatened to truly open up in the visitor's favour, D'Arcy, playing his first game for Ireland since breaking his arm this time last year, forced his way over to score.
O'Gara's easy conversion was met with a Beauxis penalty but the Cork man's penalty five minutes from time ensured his side their biggest win over the French since a 25-6 home victory in 1975.
Date created : 2009-02-07