France edge Ireland to top Six Nations

Dublin (AFP) –


France enjoyed their first Six Nations win in Dublin since 2011 with a 15-13 victory over Ireland on Sunday at Lansdowne Road.

Les Bleus looked to be easing to victory when Damian Penaud scored their second try to move 15-3 ahead in the second-half.

However, the hosts fought back only to fall short.

France will host Scotland in a fortnight with their hopes alive of their first Six Nations title since 2010.

"The match was difficult, we expected that," France head coach Fabien Galthie told France Televisions.

"At one moment we felt we could have made it easier but they're a team who gave up nothing until the end."

Ireland will head to Italy having lost the first two games in a Six Nations for the first time.

Billy Burns made a decent start, having been picked to fill in for injured captain Johnny Sexton, as did the home side in spending a fair amount of the opening quarter inside the away half.

Although he missed with a penalty attempt he converted a second one to get Ireland off the mark in the 21st minute and a 3-0 lead.

France's uneasy start was compounded when lock Bernard Le Roux was sin-binned in the 24th minute for tripping Keith Earls.

The Irish looked to have immediately punished the French when James lowe went in the corner but the television match official Tom Foley ruled he had a foot in touch.

However the French awoke from their slumber with dramatic effect as the clock ticked towards the half hour mark.

They made inroads into the Irish 22 with Antoine Dupont releasing Damian Penaud on the right but Earls managed to bring the wing down.

They then swung the ball out to the left where Jamison Gibson-Park got sucked into taking on Gael Fickou leaving Charles Ollivon on his own.

However, Gibson-Park's gamble did not come off as Fickou produced a basketball style pass to Ollivon and he beat CJ Stander's despairing tackle to touch down.

Matthieu Jalibert converted for 7-3.

"They go down to 14 men, you have to capitalise to win this game, you have to punish people for having ill-discipline," Ireland captain Iain Henderson told ITV.

"We just didn’t do that, that was our opportunity to get up in the game."

The France fly-half put the visitors a converted try ahead with a penalty to give them a 10-3 lead at half-time.

The French missed out on a brilliant opportunity shortly after the restart as Julien Marchand broke through Rob Herring's tackle to be brought down just short of the line.

Dupont's pass though from the ruck bounced off the head of Paul Willemse and over the dead ball area leading to some fruity words by the frustrated lock.

The Irish had little joy taking the ball forward with Gibson-Park spoiling the one time they did make inroads through Earls when he knocked the ball on and only desperate defence prevented a French try.

It was not long coming, though, Jalibert lobbing a long pass to Brice Dulin, who passed to Penaud and he went over in the corner.

Jalibert sent the conversion wide but the French looked comfortable at 15-3 even with 25 minutes remaining.

However, it became tight as Ollivon's tap down from a line-out went loose and hooker Ronan Kelleher on pounced on it beating Dupont to the ball and ran it in.

Kelleher's first try for his country was beautifully converted by Ross Byrne, who had replaced Burns early in the second-half after he failed to return following a Head Injury Assesmment.

Byrne reduced the lead further when he landed a penalty with 17 minutes remaining.

Jalibert had a great chance to put five points between them with just under 10 minutes remaining but the kick came back off the post.

Galthie showed his displeasure by thumping the desk.

The former France captain though could heave a sigh of relief at the final whistle after his sterling defence held off the final Irish surge.