Ireland beat France to top Six Nations table

By Richard Petrie

BBC Sport NI at Aviva Stadium

Conor Murray's try gave Ireland a 7-6 half-time advantage
Conor Murray's try gave Ireland a 7-6 half-time advantage
Six Nations: Ireland v France
Ireland (7) 19
Try: Murray Con: Sexton Pens: Sexton 2, Jackson Drop-goal: Sexton
France (6) 9
Pens: Lopez 3

Ireland kept their hopes of a third Six Nations title in four years alive by recovering from an early deficit to beat France in a bruising encounter.

Two Camille Lopez penalties put France 6-0 up but Conor Murray's converted try edged Ireland into a one-point lead.

Johnny Sexton added two penalties and a drop goal in a keenly contested second half, with Lopez and replacement Paddy Jackson trading late penalties.

Sexton, back after injury, passed the 600-point mark in international rugby.

Ireland move a point ahead of Scotland at the top of the table, with England's game at home to Italy to come on Sunday.

Joe Schmidt's men, beaten in their first match in Scotland, have 10 points from their three matches and now face Wales away and England at home.

France left the Aviva Stadium empty-handed to remain on five points and they next host Italy before a final-day trip to Cardiff.

Johnny Sexton celebrates his well-taken drop-goal during the second half in Dublin
Johnny Sexton celebrates his well-taken drop-goal with Rob Kearney during the second half in Dublin

Ireland remain unbeaten at home in the Six Nations during the tenure of coach Joe Schmidt, a run stretching back to 2014, and they will go into their next game in Cardiff on 10 March with confidence.

France displayed glimpses of the much-heralded revival under their coach Guy Noves but showed signs of tiredness throughout the second half and their hopes of a first championship success since 2010 are now surely over.

Only once in the last 10 Six Nations meetings between these sides had the winning margin reached double digits, so Ireland will be happy to come away with a hard-fought win and deny their opponents a losing bonus point.

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Simon Zebo; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain), 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

France: Scott Spedding; Yoann Huget, Remi Lamerat, Gael Fickou, Noa Nakaitaci; Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin; Curil Baille, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yoann Maestri, Bernard Le Roux, Kevin Gourdon, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Christopher Tolofua, Uini Atonio, Eddy Ben Arous, Julien le Devedec, Charles Ollivon, Maxime Machenaud, Henry Chavancy, Djibril Camara

Match officials

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Touch judges: Wayne Barnes (England) & Luke Pearce (England)

TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)


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