Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)
Ireland took a giant step towards the Six Nations Grand Slam by
beating title-holders France 32-19 in a pulsating encounter between the world’s
top two sides at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The Irish secured a winning bonus point with four tries, with
Andrew Porter scoring one on his 50th cap in what was a record 13th successive
home Test victory.
France saw their dreams of a successive Grand Slam success
dashed while their national record run of 14 consecutive Test victories came to
The win also saw head coach Andy Farrell secure his first win
over France since he took over after the 2019 World Cup.
“It was two great teams going at it with the French going
for an unbeaten record and us going for the home record,” Farrell told
“At the end of the day, it is a victory in a competition
that we want to do well at.”
France skipper Antoine Dupont admitted the team was dejected
over the loss.
“For the moment, obviously, it’s a lot of disappointment.
We can see the result. They have the bonus point, we have no defensive bonus
point,” he said.
“We will have to recover and continue this tournament
because it is not over. We know that a lot can happen.”
France struck first with Thomas Ramos slotting over a penalty in
the fifth minute.
The Irish stormed into the lead with a sublime try when prop
Finlay Bealham sold a dummy pass to Conor Murray and fed fullback Hugo Keenan
who burst through the French defence to touch down.
Irish skipper Johnny Sexton converted for 7-3 in the 10th
The trusty boot of Ramos reduced the gap on the quarter-hour
mark, converting a penalty for 7-6.
France then produced a dream try which began inside their own 22
before Anthony Jelonch passed to Damian Penaud, who brushed off Murray before
running in for his 22nd Test try. Ramos converted for 13-7.
There was an immediate reply from the Irish as they regained
possession when Ramos’s clearance kick was deflected.
The ball came out wide to James Lowe, who still had work to do
but somehow managed to touch the ball down in the corner with his legs over the
touchline but crucially with his feet not on the ground.
Sexton failed to convert, leaving the French 13-12 up.
The momentum of an engrossing game swung back to the Irish after
French prop Uini Atonio was sin-binned for a high tackle on Rob Herring.
However, the hosts took advantage immediately, with Porter
burrowing over. Sexton converted for 19-13.
The French were on the back foot, but fortunately for them,
Ramos was once again on hand to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The fullback
converted a long-range penalty for 19-16.
The Irish rounded off an incredible first half with Sexton
slotting over a penalty for a 22-16 lead.
Ramos had the first opportunity of the second period, but he
failed for the first time with the boot, his long-range penalty dropping just
However, with just over half an hour to go, the hosts lost their
A clearly upset Sexton trudged off, his head in his hands. He
had received treatment to his left leg early in the second period.
Ross Byrne assumed the playmaking role, and he landed a penalty
just prior to the hour mark to extend the lead to 25-16.
Ramos made one last telling contribution before being replaced
by dropping a goal to bring the deficit back to six points at 25-19.
However, it was the Irish who turned on the pressure and got
deserved reward when man of the match Caelan Doris found Garry Ringrose on the
left wing, and he fended off French defenders to touch down.
Byrne converted for 32-19, leaving the French a huge task with
just six minutes remaining of keeping their hopes of the Grand Slam alive.
It was not to be as one final French attack petered out, and
Sexton rose from his seat pitchside to celebrate what will be his last Six
Nations victory over the French.