Ireland were narrowly defeated by France in their RBS 6 Nations 2011 encounter this afternoon at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Despite carrying a 15-12 lead into the second half, Ireland eventually fell to a three point defeat, 25-22 in front of their home support.
Ireland were perhaps the better team over the 80 minutes, particularly where territory is concerned, and they proved this by outscoring France in terms of tries: crossing the line three times to France’s one.
Unfortunately for the vociferous home support, Ireland lost their first ever 6 Nations match at the Aviva primarily as a result of ill-discipline at the breakdown, and the resulting penalty kicking of Morgan Parra.
Parra did not miss a shot at goal, and calmly slotted five penalties, four of which came in a first half which Ireland had otherwise dominated.
The penalty count was the telling statistic of today’s match: at half time, Ireland had given away 8 penalties to France’s 6, however, crucially, France had given away absolutely none in their own half, whereas six of Ireland’s indiscretions had occurred in their own territory.
That is should prove to be so came as a bitter blow to a dejected Ireland at full-time, as, from having opened brightly and scored the early try through McFadden, up until the final moments when a knock-on from Sean Cronin prevented what looked like a last-minute try for the hosts, Ireland were always in with more than a slight chance of winning this match.
France, who’s body language was not that of a side full of belief at any point in the match, did manage to cross the Irish try line once, midway through the second half, as Gordon D’Arcy missed a tackle, allowing Medard to collect and rush over the line in an otherwise faultless defensive display. France had not, up until that point, nor afterwards, looked like breaching the Irish line.
However, it is France, not Ireland, who remain unbeaten, and the Irish will look to rucking and scrummaging infringements, which brought about a succession of penalties today, and, perhaps, their lack of a world class finisher at wing, as the primary reasons for their defeat.
But this was a phenomenal, absorbing rugby match and, even without really sparking into life, France showed their class when it mattered most, particularly in standing strong for minutes on end with 15 on the clock to keep out a spirited Irish onslaught. However, shut them out they did, until a miss-kick from O’Gara, who had arguably outplayed Sexton, whom he replaced at ten, led to a smart touch-down from Heaslip right in the corner.
Ireland had been trailing by ten points prior to this moment, and O’Gara kicked the conversion, via a glance off the post, to set up a grandstand finish, with six or seven minutes to find three points.
The chance to take out the win for Ireland looked to have come when Keith Earls chipped the ball from the wing into the French 22 with a couple of minutes on the clock following yet another good play through the Irish backs. The ball was not dealt with by the French backs, and was picked up by the on-rushing Ireland players, before being flicked to Sean Cronin. Had Cronin collected and moved the ball on, Ireland had five or six players uncontested out on the right hand overlap. He dropped the ball forwards, allowing the French to regroup and professionally play out the remaining 90 seconds.
It is on such a tight margin that this close rugby union test match was won and lost. Ireland having been the aggressor for much of this game, will no doubt be bitterly disappointed not to have completed the victory that their 80 minutes of work looked to have set up in front of their home support.
When all is said and done, this match came down to subtle and not-so-subtle Irish mistakes at key moments, and in key areas of the pitch: the countless penalties for breakdown infringements; the missed tackle from Gordon D’Arcy; and the unfortunate – and forgiveable – fumble by the on-rushing Sean Cronin in the final moments.
But for one of these incidents, Ireland would have captured at least a point from today’s match.
France were poor again, but rugby union is a results based industry, and they got the job done today.
Ireland v France RBS 6 Nations 2011 – Points Breakdown
|Ireland||22 – 25||France|
|McFadden, O’Leary, Heaslip||Medard|
|Sexton||Parra 5, Yachvili|