Six Nations 2021: France show fight and finesse to make a statement in Dublin

By Sports Desk February 14, 2021

Huge roars echoed around the Aviva Stadium as the ball sailed into an empty stand to end France's 10-year wait for a win in Ireland.

Time and again Les Bleus have suffered the agony of defeat in Dublin, but they showed a combination of style and substance to make it two Six Nations victories out of two.

Booming bellows of celebration and relief could be heard loud and clear on a wet Sunday as France held on to win an almighty battle 15-13.

Les Bleus have not won a Six Nations title for 11 years, consistently proving to be great entertainers but falling short with defensive fragility, indiscipline and a lack of clear thinking.

This is a different France in the Fabien Galthie era, though, with defence coach Shaun Edwards having worked wonders in a relatively short space of time to make them such a tough nut to crack.

Englishman Edwards has given France a strong backbone and that was essential as they frustrated a wounded Ireland, who were missing captain Johnny Sexton, James Ryan and Conor Murray due to injury.

A try in each half from inspirational captain Charles Ollivon and Damian Penaud proved to be decisive, with France providing the cutting edge that Ireland lacked.

Ireland had 59 per cent possession but were only able to break through a brick wall of a French defensive once, when Ronan Kelleher nipped in to set up a tense finale.

France made 180 tackles to 122 from Ireland, who will head into a rest weekend with two defeats from two, while their conquerors lead the way with Wales on nine points after making a big statement.

Billy Burns made a confident start as he set about trying to make up for his costly last-gasp kick in the loss to Wales and although he was off target with a poor first penalty, the fly-half made no mistake soon after to put Ireland in front.

The men in green were dominant and had an extra man when Bernard Le Roux was sin-binned 23 minutes in for tripping Keith Earls.

France were under the pump but stood firm, the excellent Brice Dulin grabbing slippery high balls as Ireland continued to knock at the door, missing out on an opening try when the TMO spotted James Lowe's foot touched the line as he was tackled in the corner.

Les Bleus were relishing the battle and showed their class with ball in hand to hit the front in style after 28 minutes.

The mercurial Antoine Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert featuring in a showreel of offloads before Gael Fickou tossed a clever pass over Jamison Gibson-Park, setting up captain Ollivon for a brilliant score.

Jalibert booted France into a 10-3 lead at the break and Ireland's luck was out again when Cian Healy and stand-in captain Iain Henderson went off with blood pouring from their heads following an unfortunate collision.

Penaud extended France's lead with another clinical try following a strong carry from the powerful Fickou and a fine Jalibert pass, but Kelleher scooped a loose ball from a lineout to score his first Ireland try with 56 minutes on the clock.

The nerves were jangling when Jalibert hit a post from the tee and a mammoth Ross Byrne penalty reduced the deficit to two points with 16 minutes to play.

Yet France defended for their lives to get the job done, showing fight and finesse to avoid more Dublin doom and gloom.

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