Match Report

Stylish France down Ireland but miss out on Championship crown

Virimi Vakatawa celebrates scoring a try 31/10/2020
Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont inspired France to a fine victory against Ireland in a result that handed England the 2020 Guinness Six Nations title.

Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont inspired France to a fine victory against Ireland in a result that handed England the 2020 Guinness Six Nations title.

On a thrilling Super Saturday, England beat Italy with a bonus point to set the target for their fellow title contenders but neither France nor Ireland could topple them in the day’s final game.

Les Bleus required a bonus-point win and a 31-point margin but, despite playing some exquisite rugby, they fell short against an Ireland side who started the day top of the table.

Dupont and Ntamack scored a try each, while a first-half penalty try and second-half Virimi Vakatawa score were enough for victory.

Ireland kicked-off chasing either a bonus-point win or any victory by seven points or more. But they trailed for most of the match despite tries from Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale.

France finish second in the Championship table, missing out on points difference to England, while Ireland finish third.


Following England’s commanding 34-5 win away to Italy, both France and Ireland knew exactly what they needed to win the trophy.

Ireland’s task was simplest and they started promisingly by winning a scrum penalty inside five minutes. Conor Murray surprisingly lined up the shot at goal from inside his own but pulled it wide marginally wide, despite having the necessary distance.

But France made him pay when Gael Fickou sprinted into space down the left and flicked a pass inside to the excellent Dupont, who sprinted clear to score the game’s first try.

In a sign of what was to come, Ireland hit back as Johnny Sexton stabbed a clever kick in behind France’s defence for Hugo Keenan. However, the ball bounced up and just out of his grasp at the try-line and the covering Anthony Bouthier knocked it out of play.

Bouthier was sin-binned and narrowly avoided conceding a penalty try, but it took Ireland a further nine minutes to score as Healy drove over from close range to mark his 100th cap in style.

Ireland’s dominant spell continued when a Sexton penalty put them 10-7 up in the 26th minute but the match turned at the half-hour mark when Stockdale knocked-on a France grubber kick and Gregory Alldritt pounced on the loose ball just 15 metres out.

The No.8 kicked ahead but was denied a try by a cynical tackle from flanker Caelan Doris that left referee Wayne Barnes little option but to award a penalty try and send Doris to the sin-bin.

Sexton and Ntamack exchanged penalties but France failed to made Ireland suffer during Doris’ stint in the bin and only a turnover on their try-line prevented an Irish try on the stroke of half-time.


The visitors were made to pay for that missed opportunity after the break as France scored a stunning try to deal a major blow to Ireland’s hopes.

Ntamack found Fickou in space on the left, he sprinted downfield and chipped a perfectly-weighted kick through for Dupont, who then flicked a pass back inside for Ntamack to finish.

The fly-half missed the conversion but booted through two penalties shortly after, giving France a 15-point lead.

However, Ireland regrouped and Henshaw’s excellent individual try, when he picked the ball up, ran down the blindside, beat several tackles and kept his balance to dot down, changed the momentum of the match again.

Ireland worked themselves into a couple of promising positions but poor handling errors cost them and France brought up their fourth try in style.

Ntamack collected his own chip over the top and passed outside to Vakatawa, who strolled in for an easy score to kill Ireland’s chances.

That left France eight minutes to score 16 more points but they ran out of time, while Stockdale crossed for Ireland in the final play of the game.


With the game tantalisingly poised at half-time, it felt like whichever side took the initiative would go on and win.

That was France and their outstanding third try was a blow Ireland could not come back from. At its heart were Dupont and Ntamack, France’s stars of the present and future, combining superbly to score in the corner.


Ntamack and Dupont excelled in attack but they just missed out to the equally-excellent Gregory Alldritt.

The No.8 played a key role in the penalty try and was superb at the breakdown, disrupting Ireland’s rhythm throughout.