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Victory margin could have been bigger but Ireland fully deserve victory

Guinness Six Nations Championship:
Ireland 26, France 14
ON a day when eight Munster players saw international game time, Ireland set up a Six Nations grand finale in Cardiff next week-end with a well-deserved win over a French side that lacked attacking flair for most of the game. Two late tries for the French gave the result a less embarrassing appearance for the visitors and over the 80 minutes, Ireland deserved should have won by a bigger margin.
Before the teams had time to put their boots on there was a blow for the Irish with Rob Kearney withdrawing. It mattered little. From the start Ireland were in the driving seat and they led at half time by 19-0. It could have a bigger margin than that with the boys in green camped in the French half thanks to 74% territorial advantage.
It took the home side just two minutes to take the lead. France were penalised for a side entry, Sexton pumped the ball into the corner and the pack did the rest, Rory Best getting the touchdown and Sexton adding the two points for a 7-0 lead. France never raised a gallop and they only threatened the Irish line once during that opening 40 minutes, a try disallowed for an earlier infringement.
Lengthy pressure from Ireland over a 20 minute period eventually brought the second Irish score, Jonathan Sexton linking well to go over near the posts and adding the conversion for a 14-0 lead. France looked resigned to an afternoon of defensive action and they went further behind coming up to the break, Jack Conan crashing over and Sexton this time missing the target with the conversion.
As a spectacle, the game needed an early second half score from the French and to their credit they attacked from the restart only to knock the ball on when they made a rare incursion into the green 22. Tight head Demba Bamba appeared to be the only one prepared to gain ground at the mauls and rucks in the blue shirt but when they did get the ball out the backline their attacks lacked penetration.
The pressure from Ireland continued into the second half and with 55 minutes played a Limerick one-two, inside pass from Dave Kilcoyne and a try by Keith Earls put this result to bed, Sexton’s conversion pushing the lead to 26-0. With the Munster front-row sprung from the bench, more grief was piled upon a visibly tiring France. Kilcoyne, Scannell and Ryan took the pressure up to a new high at scrum time but, in fairness to the French they survived numerous scrums close to their try line.
Jordan Larmour spoiled a try chance when he opted for an extra side-step with the line within reach and eventually the French supporters got something to celebrate when Yoann Huget at last found a gap to go in under the posts and the conversion gave the scoreboard a better look if you were supporting the visitors. France then added a second try from Chat, converted by Ntamak to make the final score Ireland 26, France 14.
Ireland: Jordan Larmour; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Ian Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh Van der Flier, CJ Stander. Replacements, Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Jack Conan, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway.
France: Thomas Ramos; Damien Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado, Demba Bamba; Felix Lambey, Sebastien Vahaamahina; Wenseslas Lauret, Arthur Iturria, Louis Picamoles. Replacements, Camille Chat, Etienne Falgoux, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau, Maxime Medard.
Referee, Ben O’Keeffe, NZ.

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