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Eddie O'Sullivan reviews Ireland's historic win in Paris

 Eddie O'Sullivan reviews Ireland's historic win in Paris
Ireland defeated France in Paris last Saturday in what was an eighty-minute white-knuckle ride. The game swung back and forth but the better team won in the end… just about!

It was evident from the start that France came to play. People discounted their ability to upset Ireland and with good reason, as their form throughout the first four rounds of the championship had been very poor.

But there was always one big performance in this French team and they certainly saved the best for last and pushed Ireland to the limit throughout the eighty minutes.

Winning in Paris under those conditions makes the victory all the sweeter while at the same time delivering our second 6 Nations Championship in five years and giving our greatest rugby player in history the perfect finish to his international career.

The game started at a frantic pace with both teams putting width on their game. Both sides defended well but it was France who drew first blood with two penalties for a 6 - 0 lead after fifteen minutes.

But Ireland hit a five minute purple patch that rocked France with two well- constructed tries from Jonathan Sexton and Andrew Trimble.

The big question was how would France respond to Ireland’s two try salvo. This was a French team that was low on confidence throughout the Championship and you sensed it was possible they might be vulnerable to folding mentally.

But their response was swift and clinical. A line-out drive close to Ireland’s goal-line collapsed the Irish defence. The ensuing cross kick was perfect and Huget batted the ball down for Dulin to dive over in the corner. Machenaud added the conversion and France were back in the lead.

Jonathan Sexton, who had missed the conversion of his own try, also missed a very kickable penalty just as the half ended.

France increased their intensity at the start of the second half and had Ireland under huge pressure. But their penchant to turn over the ball, that plagued them all day, happened again when Huget spilled the ball just 5m from the Irish goal-line.

Rob Kearney initiated the counter attack that swept 95m downfield finishing with Jonathan Sexton scoring his second try. This was a huge blow to the French who had looked like they had the bit between their teeth up until that point.

Sexton added another penalty five minutes later to give Ireland a nine-point lead. But there was still a long way to go and France were not about to roll over and play dead in front of their own supporters.

They came roaring back into the game and were eventually rewarded when Szarzewski grounded the ball at the base of the Irish goal post, although there was a strong suspicion he had knocked on the ball prior to grounding it. Machenaud added the conversion and it was suddenly a two-point game.

With seventeen minutes remaining in the game, it was all to play for and the frantic pace of the game never dropped. The big fear was France would pick up three points from a penalty or a drop-goal. That nightmare almost materialised with less than five minutes remaining when France were awarded a kickable penalty out on the left.

But at that stage French Coach, Phillipe Saint-André, had inexplicably replaced Maxime Machenaud. His place-kicking had been flawless all day. The replacement scrum-half, Jean-Marc Doussain, missed the kick and Ireland were allowed to breath again.

There was still even more drama to come when France missed a penalty kick to touch with time running out. Rob Kearney fielded the ball and kicked long, but France counter attacked and the result was a French try being disallowed for a forward pass.

With time just about up, Ireland lost control of the ensuing scrum and France got one more opportunity to attack. But a well executed “choke tackle” killed the game and Ireland launched into celebrations.With time just about up, Ireland lost control of the ensuing scrum and France got one more opportunity to attack. But a well executed “choke tackle” killed the game and Ireland launched into celebrations.

It has been an excellent championship for Ireland and as the best team of the tournament we are deserved Champions. It is also the dream finish to the career of Brian Gerald O’Driscoll, the greatest rugby player in history.

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