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Home / News / Stunning Ireland dismantle France in Marseille

Stunning Ireland dismantle France in Marseille

Ireland put their World Cup disappointment firmly behind them as kicked off their Grand Slam defence in style with a 38-17 win against France in Marseille.

The defending Guinness Six Nations champions looked right back to their best as they pulled the French apart on home soil, with bonus-point win just Ireland’s fourth victory away to the French in 40 years. The visitors led from start to finish against the hosts, who came off second best in every department except the scrum.

Joe McCarthy announced himself to Test rugby tonight. The 22-year-old was Player of the Match on his Six Nations debut as he brought a new level of physicality to the Irish pack, while Jack Crowley kicked six out of seven off the tee in a bold performance, albeit one that was slightly rough around the edges.

Ireland had a man advantage for the majority of the game after a 32nd minute red card for French lock Paul Willemse. The second row picked up two yellow cards for head-high hits on Andrew Porter and then Caelan Doris. Having been lucky to see his first yellow remain so after a TMO Bunker referral, there was no saving him the second time around, and France paid a heavy price for that indiscipline.

Tries for Jamison Gibson Park and Tadhg Beirne sent Ireland into a commanding 17-3 lead at the Orange Velodrome, but when Damian Penaud hit back for France just before half time to bring France back within seven right on half time.

Every time France came back, Ireland had answers though, as Calvin Nash scored a first Irish try on his Six Nations debut, and Dan Sheehan dived over for the bonus-point either side of Paul Gabrillagues getting one back for France.

While France had their moments, and did a job on the Irish scrum, the never really looked like winning, and Rónan Kelleher’s late try put the gloss on a stunning Irish win.

After an electric build-up to the game in the stunning Velodrome, it was reassuring to see Ireland settle into the game.

An intercept from Lowe led to a penalty against France for offside, and after securing the lineout in the French 22, another penalty followed directly under the posts. Crowley had an easy tap-over to ease into the game and make it 3-0 to the visitors after seven minutes.

The French discipline had been poor in the early stages, and right from the restart they gave up another penalty at the breakdown after some excellent work from O’Mahony. It was to get worse though, as replays showed Willemse take out Porter with a shoulder to the head, and Dickson wasted little time issuing a yellow card and a bunker review.

Willemse survived the review – this time – but Ireland were still able to punish the sin-bin as Gibson-Park scampered in for the opening try on 16 minutes.

It started with an Irish lineout after a poor French clearance, as some clever handling saw Lowe carry in midfield. After securing quick ball, Henshaw’s delayed pass sent Aki into space, and the centre popped the ball back inside to his scrum-half who ran in to score the opening try, which Crowley converted to make it 10-0.

On 22 minutes Ireland were inches away from a second try as a clever blindside move off a scrum saw Van der Flier held up over the line, while moments later they missed out on another points buffer as Crowley saw a kick from in front of the sticks drift right and wide.

To compound those missed chances, a dominant French scrum allowed the hosts get their first points of the game with 25 minutes played, as Ramos landed a long-range penalty to make it 7-3.

It felt for a moment like a momentum shift, but Ireland didn’t get the memo. Having worked their way back into the French 22, they got their forwards on the ball as Doris and Furlong in particular logged big carries.

Beirne got levelled in a tackle by Mauvaka, but just a few phases later he got the last laugh, as the French hooker shot up in the line to try tackle Crowley, whose swift handling sent Beirne charging through the gap to score Ireland’s second try. Crowley’s conversion made it 17-3 after 30 minutes.

Trailing by 14 points, the hosts’ challenge grew even bigger within moments of the restart, as Willemse got the red card he had been lucky to avoid earlier. This time the second row took out Doris with a head shot, and his second yellow card saw him sent off for good. No bunker review would save him this time.

The French had been second best in every department bar the scrum in the first half, and a second penalty against Porter gave them the territory to launch a late attack before the break. Further penalties followed, and after a quick-tap from Mauvaka brought France close to the line, Penaud steamed onto a short pass to dive over for their opening try.

Ramos’ conversion crept inside the left post, as the 14 men of France cut the score to 17-10.

They almost shaved another three points off that Irish lead two minutes into the second half when Ireland were penalised for creeping up at the maul, but this time Ramos’ long-range effort dropped right and wide.

Having given up two scrum offences earlier, Porter came up trumps with a jackal penalty, and it gave Ireland the platform for their third try on 44 minutes.

The lineout again looked solid as Ireland established possession in the 22, while McCarthy put in two bruising carries to get Ireland on the front foot. As the French defence scrambled, Ireland moved it quickly out to Henshaw, and after a dominant carry the centre flicked a beautiful offload to Doris, whose pass to the touchline sent Nash in for his first Irish try. Crowley’s conversion from the touchline was perfect, as Ireland re-established their 14-point advantage.

It was turning into a classic, as France came right back with a try on 52 minutes, as successive penalties against Crowley and Beirne sent France to the corner, with Gabrillagues sneaking over with a pick and go. Ramos converted to make it 24-17, while Ireland saw their captain O’Mahony sin-binned for pulling down a maul in the moments before the score.

By the hour mark, the sides were trading blow for blow. Crowley launched a high ball into the French 22, and his side forced a turnover as they probed away at the French defence, who couldn’t resist but creep offside.

With a bonus-point in sight, Ireland went for the corner, and securing the lineout, their maul blew the French back as Sheehan broke away to dive over and get the fourth try. For the second time in a row, Crowley’s drilled the touchline conversion to give his side a two-try buffer at 31-17.

With France now chasing scores, the game become open and chaotic, but the visitors continued to play on their own terms, slowing it down when they could, and kicking deep to pin the French back.

On 77 minutes, they landed the killer blow. With France penalised in midfield, Ireland went back to the corner, and again their maul did the business as Kelleher grabbed the fifth try.

The final word went to Crowley, who split the posts to bring his personal tally up to 13 on the night, and cap off a phenomenal Irish win.

France: Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana; Matthieu Jalibert, Maxime Lucu; Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio; Paul Gabrillagues, Paul Willemse; Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt (capt).

Replacements: Julien Marchand, Reda Wardi, Dorian Aldegheri, Posolo Tuilagi, Cameron Woki, Paul Boudehent, Nolann Le Garrec, Louis Bielle-Biarrey.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Calvin Nash, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Jack Crowley, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, James Ryan, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ciarán Frawley.

Referee: Karl Dickson (Eng)

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