France made it two wins out of two in this year's Six Nations after they beat Ireland 10-9 in a dour clash in Paris on Saturday.
Ireland did lead 3-9 at the break but after the turnaround it was all France as a Maxime Médard try came on the back of a solid scrum, moving les Bleus top of the standings. The Irish meanwhile are left to contemplate how they remain without a win as they head home empty handed.
In wet weather conditions it was a first half lacking in attacking quality but the physicality was clear to see as Ireland lost three players to either injury or the blood bin. They were Sean O'Brien, Dave Kearney and Mike McCarthy with the former sustaining a worrying knee injury.
Jonathan Sexton was the man taking most of the punishment however as a late shoulder charge on the fly-half gifted him the opening points. The Leinster man made no mistake from 40 metres as Ireland led before flanker O'Brien's rotten luck with injury struck on 20 minutes.
Nine minutes later the lead was doubled when, after enjoying plenty of possession and territory, Ireland added a second penalty as France offended at ruck time. Again Sexton was on target, this time from his left, amid another change as Fergus McFadden came on for Kearney.
France finally got some field position after the opening 30 minutes and it didn't take long for them to turn that into points, with Devin Toner going off his feet at the ruck to allow Jules Plisson to strike. The playmaker would later miss a snap drop goal as the home side rallied.
Fortunately for Ireland that French territory was short-lived as a powerful scrum earned the visitors three points to stretch the lead back out to six. But when Toner failed to collect the resulting restart and Andrew Trimble held on in the tackle, Plisson had the chance to make it a three-point game. He missed that kick as Ireland went into the dressing rooms to dry off 9-3 to the good, but thinking it could have been more.
Guy Novès was clearly unhappy with his troops and changes soon followed after the break as Hugo Bonneval replaced Teddy Thomas on the wing while a brand new front row also entered the fray, although captain Guilhem Guirado's absence was only temporary as he returned after treatment.
Still trailing 9-3 the French continued to ring the changes as Maxime Machenaud and Paul Jedrasiak soon appeared as they set up camp in Ireland's final third. However, handling errors in the rain continued to hurt their game, Ireland easily keeping them out as the hour mark neared.
France would keep banging on the door though and came close to scoring when Damien Chouly was over the line from a short carry. But he was judged to have not grounded after TMO intervention. Still Ireland led by six but a five-metre les Bleus scrum kept up the pressure.
Eventually, after several penalty resets, France got their reward and it came thanks to a good angle from full-back Médard, with Plisson's conversion pushing the hosts in front for the first time in the game. At 10-9 up, the French had nine minutes to hold on for an ugly triumph.
They comfortably did that as the hosts ended the second half well on top, with Ireland left to ponder how they failed to win as one point from two games means their Championship crown is slipping away from their grasp.
Man of the match: In a match short on quality, the contest was ultimately won up front and hooker Guilhem Guirado was a key part of this French victory. Solid in the scrum and also the tackle – Dave Kearney can vouch for that after receiving a heavy impact from the captain – Guirado was also at the heart of France's try in a series of attacking scrums. A mention for Maxime Médard too for landing the vital blow.
Moment of the match: It took 71 minutes for the game's first try and Maxime Médard got it after running a nice line from ten metres out. That took the wind out of Ireland's sails as it was a second-half to forget at the set-piece, with France dominating the forward battle.
Villain of the match: Other than that late Yoann Maestri hit on Jonathan Sexton, it was a relatively clean Six Nations contest in Paris.
Pens: Sexton 3
France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Eddy Ben Arous, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Hugo Bonneval
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Nathan White, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Richard Strauss, 17 James Cronin, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)