Ireland (7) 19
TRY: Conor Murray. CON: Johnny Sexton PEN: Johnny Sexton (2), Paddy Jackson. DG: Johnny Sexton
France (6) 9
PEN: Camille Lopez (3)

Greater purpose, full of endeavour is how you would categorise Ireland in this match as they battled to a convincing 19 – 9 win against a disappointing France on Saturday evening at the Aviva.

A Conor Murray try, converted by Johnny Sexton saw Ireland go into the break with a one point lead. Two penalties and a drop goal from Sexton plus a Paddy Jackson penalty wrapped it up for the Irish as the French committed too many offences in the second half. 

I’d predicted a win for the French in this one but Ireland didn’t have to do much more than show a bit of resolve to turn this game that appeared to be going the visitors way in the opening exchanges. It was hard resolve, putting your body where it hurts resolve, and it limited the French to two penalties, from Camille Lopez, in the opening quarter when they could have had two tries. 

Ireland’s fortitude in defence also had the effect of tiring out the big French side and as soon as Ireland scrapped their way back into the game, with a Conor Murray try on the half hour mark, there was no way back for Les Blues. Sexton added the extras and Ireland took a one point lead into the break. 

French indiscipline led to an early penalty from Sexton at the start of the second half and the returning out-half added a well taken drop goal four minutes later to give Ireland a 13 – 6 lead. 

The game was hardly as classic, with technical infringements the main route to a score. Sexton had a good enough game but the whole back line struggled to rise above the battle of attrition in a stodgy second half. 

A scrum binding infringement gave Ireland their next points with Sexton slotting it over on the 55th minute and that was basically it. The teams swapped out their subs and Lopez knocked over a penalty on the 74th minute to add a frisson of excitement in the closing minutes. However, it didn’t last long as Paddy Jackson slotted over an Irish penalty two minutes later to restore their ten point lead. 

Final score: Ireland 19 France 9

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Kieran Marmion, Paddy Jackson, Andrew Trimble.

Far from a classic, but Ireland did what they had to do and are still plodding along towards that (inevitable?) showdown against England on 18th March. Don’t forget to vote in our poll below.  😛