The second match of the day saw France travel to Ireland, a match being contested between two of the hopefuls to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Play in Dublin started off as slow and scrappy as the previous match in Scotland. Play passed back and forth with no real threats on the try line and no real opportunities, as the clock passed 10 minutes the score board remained at zero for both teams. It was not until the clock was nearing 12 minutes that a score was to be achieved; with a penalty for France putting the visitors ahead.
In typical Nigel Owens style the teams were both chastised for not getting into scrum position at a fast enough pace. The scrum when set did not got to plan with the Irish side giving away a penalty for not binding, du to the proximity to the try line the French opted for another scrum and retained possession of the ball, resulting in what could have been the first try being scored by the French side; Nigel Owens referred a possible knock on to the TMO, resulting in the try being disallowed. A penalty opportunity then followed adding 3 points to the French score.
After a scuffle Ireland saw hope when awarded a penalty for the French lifting a leg of an opponent in the maul. Sexton kicked to the corner for a line out, the line out failed and was retaken under strict direction from Nigel Owens, a scrum soon followed that promptly collapsed giving France the opportunity and a foot hold back into the game.
The click ticked on, past 25 minutes and still the scores had not changed. More collapsing scrums, failed tackles and missed chances continued in the following minutes, until shortly before the 30 minute mark Connor Murray secured a try for Ireland, followed by a conversion, Johnny Sexton’s first of the match and the championship. Still the scoreboard remained low at 7-6.
As half time approached Ireland were appearing to tire, with poor discipline from both sides effecting play. Nigel Owens handed out official warnings to the French side and Ireland took the line out, in the maul that followed Ireland were penalised for not releasing handing the ball back to the French side. Defensive efforts from both sides continued with a line out at 39:47 , won by Ireland but taken into a scrappy maul, Ireland managed to break free and head for the try line, attack remained strong in subsequent tackles as they continued to drive for the line. The tension had returned as Ireland pressed forward but a knock on ended the second half, a saviour for France.
The second half commenced with both sides returning to the pitch displaying passion and determination as the rain swept in to Dublin. Within minutes Nigel Owen’s was having to have words with some of the players for poor discipline, resulting in an penalty to Ireland and Sexton accepting the early gift of another 3 points.
Lopez took the restart for France and play continued in a scrappy style. The ground was becoming increasingly slipper as the rain continued to beat down on the pitch and the players, Ireland possible having an advantage being accustomed to the conditions. Johnny Sexton then thrilling the crowd with a stunning drop goal just before 50 minutes.
Feeling the pressure the French side fought hard, but failed to gain possession and make an impact. Ireland were playing on the fact that France were struggling against conditions, but that did not protect them form the wrath of Owens dishing out more strong warnings. 54 minutes saw another penalty taken by Sexton increasing the home sides lead.
Defence was paramount for both teams and the score board remained at 16-6, the match was proving to be an exiting contest, but there was no denying the multiple errors from both sides. As play continued, with 10 minutes to go there had still been no further scored to be had for either side. The French side were not giving in without a fight and pushed towards the try line, the attempt was thwarted from a strong Irish tackle; but due to obstruction the French were awarded a penalty and closed the gap slightly.
At 74 minutes roles were reversed when Ireland were awarded a penalty, this time take by Paddy Clark returning the 10 point lead to the home side. France were left with a lot to do with just 4 minutes on the clock, still the pressed towards the Irish defence, which proved to be to strong when possession was lost. As the clock ticked down Ireland had possession of the ball and were fighting to retain the lead. With insufficient time left it was clear that France could not do anything and that their championship fight was coming to an end.