Ireland were forced to hand over their Grand Slam title on Saturday as a top-class French outfit proved a point in Paris, winning 33-10.
Ireland were forced to hand over their 2009 Grand Slam bragging rights on Saturday as a top-class French outfit proved a point in Paris, winning 33-10.
The purists will be delighted to hear that the Stade de France was blessed to watch Les Bleus in full swing and it was apparent that the champions had no answer to what was thrown at them.
They lost the battle up front and also out wide in a physical contest that in patches slipped over what is right and wrong on a rugby field.
I am alluding to the possible, make that probable citing for hooker Jerry Flannery, whose blatant first-half trip on Alexis Palisson forced the young winger off the field and could have similar repercussions for the Munster front-rower.
And so to the free-flowing French. Francois Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra were the men who ran the show, the latter kicking eighteen points as Ireland crashed to their first defeat since 2008.
William Servat scored the game's first try on 27 minutes while Ireland were down to fourteen men through the sin-binning of prop Cian Healy for obstruction and centre Yannick Jauzion added a second before half-time.
Ireland, who like their hosts with Palisson, lost a player to injury in the shape of British & Irish Lions full-back Rob Kearney, became increasingly ragged and conceded a third try to Clement Poitrenaud before David Wallace grabbed a consolation effort on 65 minutes.
Victory will taste all the sweeter for France knowing that Ireland arrived genuinely believing they could end their decade-long wait for a success at Stade de France.
Instead, the holders failed the first significant examination of their title defence and missed the chance to head to Twickenham with their tails up.
Ireland in the end trudged off shell-shocked, yet a promising opening suggested they might finally be ready to improve their record of just one win in Paris in 28 years.
Early surges from returning flanker Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip swept them five metres short of the line. France's defence reacted sharply, however, with Jauzion bottling up O'Driscoll before the attack became lateral and fizzled out.
A busy Gordon D'Arcy was then denied by the bounce of the ball after he charged into space and chipped ahead with winger Vincent Clerc coming to the rescue of the side in blue.
Then came Flannery's indiscretion which he was lucky to stay on the field for as frustration mounted and tempers began to fray in the contest. Instead it was Cian Healy who went to the sin-bin for holding back the supporting Trinh-Duc when France were on an attack.
Parra landed the penalty before the hosts cranked up the volume with four successive five-metre scrums leading to hooker Servat going over for a converted try. Ronan O'Gara reduced the deficit to 10-3 – until France produced their second try the on the half-hour mark.
The imposing Mathieu Bastareaud was then at his best as he bulldozed his way through midfield before being stopped ten metres short, but the ball found its way to Jauzion who slipped over untroubled. Parra's conversion compounded Ireland's problems to go with the departure of Kearney.
Ireland were desperate to get themselves on the try-scoring board but instead found themselves defending, which ultimately led to Bastareaud using his strength to set up France's third try. He slipped the scoring pass to Poitrenaud with Parra converting before the number nine added a drop-goal.
The wounded holders replied with a try of their own through flanker Wallace but there was no fightback as substitute Frederic Michalak landed a drop goal in what proved to be the salt in the wound for the Irish.
Man-of-the-match: This one goes to former captain Lionel Nallet. The Racing-Metro lock was a colossus in Paris as he carried, won lineouts and was also solid in the scrum.
Moment-of-the-match: Winning in France after surrendering an early lead is rarely easy. You cannot frustrate a side if they are winning so William Servat going over on 26 minutes had a massive impact on how this one panned out.
Villain-of-the-match: No debate with this unwanted award as Jerry Flannery seriously lost his cool in the first-half. A horrible trip on Alexis Palisson summed up Ireland's frustration.
Tries: Servat, Jauzion, Poitreneaud
Con: Parra 3
Pen: Parra 2
Drop: Parra, Michalak
Tries: D Wallace
France: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 David Marty, 22 Julien Malzieu.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris , 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Sean O'Brien, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Paddy Wallace
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television match officials: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)
By Adam Kyriacou