Johnny Sexton saves Ireland’s skin with an 80th minute drop kick from 40 metres to defeat France 15-13 at the Stade de France.
Teddy Thomas crossed the line for the only try of the game with ten minutes left, but it wasn’t enough to seal a French victory.
Ireland took an early 3-0 lead after Johnny Sexton converted a penalty in front of the posts and added another to give Ireland a 6-0 lead after 21 minutes. A quarter of the game had gone but both sides were still sussing each other out.
France started the match with far less international caps than Ireland and their inexperience showed on various occasions throughout the match; Sebastien Vahaamahina charged over ruck and tackled Conor Murray, allowing Sexton the opportunity to add another penalty and take the score to 9-3 at half time.was
On the other hand Ireland were struggling to break down a rugged French defence. France were on the board five minutes before the interval after capitalizing on a terrific strip from Kevin Gourdon. A hack through allowed Guillem Guirardo to position himself over the ball and win the penalty, Maxime Machenaud converted.
France were dangerous at the beginning of the second half and were exploiting the narrow Irish defence. A turnover from Iain Henderson relieved the pressure with a turnover and allowed Ireland field position. Another penalty was conceded and Sexton restored Ireland’s nine-point lead. Ireland threatened to kick on, but unforced errors prevented them from ever threatening the French line.
Ireland had few opportunities to score the opening try but the away side were often their own worst enemy. Machenaud cut Ireland’s lead to six-points with another penalty. As the hour mark approached, France were beginning to tire as nine of their players had reached double figures in the tackle count. Guillem Guirardo and Kevin Gourdon were both excellent in defence as they successfully made 28 and 21 tackles respectively. A penalty miss from Sexton kept the home side within reach.
The try line was crossed with nine minutes of the match left to play. Teddy Thomas punished a poor Irish kick with a scintillating run from the 10m line. The successful kick gave France a one-point lead. A massive scrum gave France an opportunity to take the score out of penalty range. The miss proved crucial as Johnny Sexton landed a 45m drop goal after 41 phases of play.
Ireland survive a French fright, but in truth it was a fairly mediocre game in terms of skill levels. I’m yet to see a plan B from Ireland, but they did show terrific composure in the build up to the match winning drop goal. Saying that, France weren’t great either. Their passive defence in the final play allowed Sexton the opportunity for the drop goal and showed immaturity in vital stages of the game.
Jacob Stockdale didn’t get his hands on the ball much as Ireland chose to play fairly narrow while Iain Henderson was industrious and made a couple of turnovers. Ireland’s stand out player was James Ryan. He was a menace for the French forwards and was Ireland’s top tackler. Likewise, Rob Kearney was his usual imperious self under the high ball.
Ireland definitely played their get-out-of-jail free card tonight. Luckily however, they escaped with the victory. Next up for Ireland is the first of three home matches as they take on Italy next Saturday.