Ireland stormed to a famous Guinness Six Nations victory against France to end Les Bleus’ 14-match winning run and boost their own title hopes.
A bonus-point 32-19 win was sealed in the 72nd-minute by Garry Ringrose, who evaded two tacklers in the left-hand corner and touched down to get the party started at a red-hot Aviva Stadium.
The result marks France’s first Championship defeat since Scotland’s win at the Stade de France two years ago, while Ireland have now won 13 matches in a row at home – a new record.
The hosts had the better of a sensational first 40 minutes, with tries from Hugo Keenan, James Lowe and Andrew Porter. Damian Penaud’s remarkable counter-attacking score and the boot of Thomas Ramos keeping France in touch at 22-16.
The second half was tighter, but no less compelling, Ireland trying to find breathing room where they could but France always threatening to come back.
Ross Byrne’s penalty and Ramos’ drop goal ensured the gap remained at just six points heading into the final 10 minutes, but Ringrose finished it to send Ireland into the first rest week unbeaten.
The game started off at a frenetic pace, France having some joy in the air early on and forcing a penalty when Porter went in for a turnover while Tadhg Beirne was lying all over the ball. From about 40 metres out, Ramos made no mistake with his penalty attempt.
Ireland almost hit straight back, earning an attacking lineout five metres out when Ramos struggled to deal with a Lowe grubber. France held their maul at bay and then showed remarkable discipline to keep Ireland’s forwards out as they hammered away at the line. It proved in vain when from the goal-line drop-out, they switched off and Finlay Bealham’s delightful inside pass, as a wave of Irish runners arced outside him, saw Keenan race through. He had options and both sides and used them to go over himself.
Antoine Dupont was having a great game for France and when he popped up on the shoulder from a Gaël Fickou break, the visitors were threatening. A loose ball ended the attack but Peter O’Mahony was isolated when diving on a loose ball and Ramos cut the lead to a point.
They hit the lead soon after, with a stunning counter-attacking score. From a loose pass in his own 22, Ramos flicked the ball on to Penaud, who realised that he had forwards in front of him. He went outside then in, before offloading to Anthony Jelonch. The flanker thundered away before an offload back to Penaud, who showed his pace and strength to race over for a wonder score. Ramos converted and France were 13-7 up.
Once again, the reply was immediate, Ireland charging down Ramos’ clearance kick and recovering the ball. They had a go through the forwards before Garry Ringrose spread the ball wide to Lowe, who finished acrobatically in the corner despite Penaud’s best efforts. Sexton’s conversion was just wide and Ireland trailed 13-12.
WATCH: Airborne James Lowe scores stunning try for Ireland
On 25 minutes, France were then reduced to 14 men, Uini Atonio seeing yellow for a high tackle on Rob Herring. Ireland capitalised immediately, Andrew Porter powering over from close range.
Ireland were 19-13 up with an extra man, but it was France who were on the board next, Ramos slotting three more points after the home side failed to roll away from a breakdown.
But after Atonio’s return, Ireland were still dominating territory, taking advantage of France playing more rugby in their own half than is their custom. One overly ambitious pass from Romain Ntamack was picked off by Hansen, who then spread the ball wide to Keenan. He looked to be away but Ramos got back well forcing him to grubber through. This time it was Fickou who got back but when the ball sprayed loose Hansen picked up and looked certain to score, only for Dupont to get back and show immense strength to not only hold him up but force him back. France undid some of that good work by losing the ball from a lineout five metres out a minute later, allowing Ireland to finish the half with three points from Sexton when Conor Murray knocked on going for their fourth try.
IRELAND SUFFOCATE FRANCE
Trailing 22-16 at the break, France had the first chance at points in the second half, Ethan Dumortier going on a mazy run from his own 22. Eventually, Ireland recovered the ball, but Julien Marchand earned the penalty at the breakdown. Ramos could not take advantage for the first time though, his penalty falling just short from 50 metres on the angle.
Player of the Match Doris: ‘We need to keep improving’
France were threatening though, and came close to another try when Penaud burst through, only for Stuart McCloskey to come up with a crucial turnover penalty on his line. Dumortier was next to cause havoc, getting away down the left and chipping over the top, Ringrose getting back this time.
Johnny Sexton had been forced off for Ireland, who were very much under the pump. However two Lowe kicks in quick succession swung momentum. First, he collected a Ramos grubber and forced France back just outside their own 22. Then when Les Bleus had a miscommunication at the back from one long kick, Keenan punished them with a 50:22 that led to Byrne slotting three points to make it 25-16.
France came straight back, Ramos seeing that one long attack was being stifled and dropping into the pocket to knock over a drop goal and make it a one-score game once again with 20 minutes remaining.
The home side had settled though, and came close to their fourth once more from a disrupted lineout five metres out. The French defence held as they hammered away, Ronan Kelleher held up over the line.
However, Ireland’s pressure eventually told as Doris did wonderfully to offload to Ringrose while under pressure, and the centre beat Fickou and Jalibert to score.