A dropped goal by Jonathan Sexton in the 83rd minute broke France as Ireland edged a dramatic Six Nations encounter 15-13 in the rain on Saturday.
The French looked out of it until a superb converted try by right winger Teddy Thomas swung it in their favor and made it 13-12 with only eight minutes to go. Replacement flyhalf Anthony Belleau nailed the conversion but blew a penalty shortly afterward.
With what little time was left, the Irish used it with extraordinary composure to work into the French half, going through nearly 40 phases of play before appearing to stall around halfway.
Then came the moment.
Sexton showed a sniper's eye and nerves of steel to unleash a jaw-dropping pot kick from 44 meters. As its descent appeared to slow down, it just crept over the crossbar to send Irish fans into absolute delirium.
Sexton could not quite believe it, taking a second to check it was given before he was mobbed by his teammates.
France's players dropped to their knees in a mixture of exhaustion and frustration. So much effort for so little reward.
"It's a very disappointing ending given how much energy we put into it," France coach Jacques Brunel said. "What else can you feel apart from enormous frustration? It came in the 83rd minute. He took the right option and you have to congratulate him, it wasn't easy."
It might have felt harsh on France, but although Brunel's new-look side showed mettle, defeat would have been harsh on Ireland.
"The team is hurt by the result, but should be very proud. We were playing against a team full of confidence and could have won," Brunel said. "But we gave away too many points."
That view was echoed by captain Guilhem Guirado.
"Our lack of discipline punished us," the France hooker said. "It's even harder to lose when we had the match in hand."
France's evening went from elation to stunned disbelief in a frantic last 10 minutes that provided unexpected marvel to a scrappy contest in pouring rain.
With the clock running down, Thomas surged out of nowhere to beat four Irish tackles after a flying run down the right flank ended with him snaking over the line at full stretch.
France was just as surprised to see the try as Ireland, which seemed to have the French counterattack contained until Thomas accelerated around the edge and was through.
Until that point, it had looked like Sexton's steady boot would be enough to get the Irish only a third win at Stade France. He landed four penalties but also missed one at 12-6.
Belleau took France's penalty at 13-12 because scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who slotted over two, had limped off the pitch. It was a big task for Belleau, winning only his third test cap after Matthieu Jalibert also limped away early, and the kick from about 35 meters on the left lacked confidence.
Still, France will take heart from the spirit they showed under Brunel. He was appointed in December to stop the rot, and boldly gave debuts to 19-year-old Jalibert and fullback Geoffrey Palis.
The new era got off to a sloppy start as Ireland scored from its first attack, with Sexton's penalty punishing an offside.
The Irish made a few errors themselves, but got away with it because France still can't turn pressure into points. Sexton slotted over from out front after flanker Yacouba Camara erred to make it 6-0.
Jalibert made a decent impression and showed composure. But after 30 minutes he hurt his left knee and was replaced by Belleau - youth for youth.
Machenaud finally got some points, but Sexton replied just before the break for 9-3.
More indiscipline gifted him another one after halftime, after lock Sebastien Vahaamahina infringed at a ruck.
At least Machenaud had his eye in, and his second penalty kept France within a converted try of taking the lead.
It came from nowhere, only to be trumped by Ireland's final onslaught setting up Sexton's phenomenal kick.
Date created : 2018-02-04