Morning Chronicle - France make Six Nations statement with Ireland win

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France make Six Nations statement with Ireland win
France make Six Nations statement with Ireland win

France make Six Nations statement with Ireland win

France beat Ireland 30-24 in Paris on Saturday to consolidate their status as favourites for this year's Six Nations title.

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Antoine Dupont and Cyril Baille crossed for the hosts in a thrilling affair to extend their lead at the top of the table in a tournament the French last won in 2010.

They are three points ahead of Ireland in the standings and are now the only side able to claim a Grand Slam.

"That was tough, we had a tough as teak adversary even if that does not surprise us. It is a beautiful victory," said France coach Fabien Galthie.

The fixture had been a sell-out since last autumn and the atmosphere in Paris was taken up a notch pre-match with tricolour flags handed out amongst the 79,115 fans in the crowd.

Ireland were without captain Johnny Sexton due to a hamstring strain with the 36-year-old replaced by Joey Carbery, making his maiden Six Nations start after coming off the bench in last weekend's victory over Wales.

Galthie also handed a first run-on appearance to 21-year-old centre Yoram Moefana, replacing Jonathan Danty with the La Rochelle midfielder sustaining an ankle issue in Sunday's win over Italy.

"We're very disappointed. We started the game poorly," said Ireland skipper James Ryan.

"That gave them momentum in the first half. We showed some grit in the second half but we ended up chasing the game a bit."

The raucous atmosphere in the stands was replicated on the field as the hosts led after just 80 seconds when home captain Dupont slid over after a break from his half-back partner Romain Ntamack.

Full-back Melvyn Jaminet kicked a penalty to make it 10-0 inside three minutes.

The away crowd had something to cheer seconds later as Mack Hansen, who made his debut last weekend, caught Carbery's restart to cross with Jaminet and winger Damian Penaud caught flat-footed.

France controlled the rest of the half as Jaminet slotted three penalties with ease to make it 19-7, with Ireland pinned eight times by referee Angus Gardner during the first half, compared to not even once last Saturday in Dublin.

Jaminet extended his side's lead three minutes after the break with a shot at goal to make it 22-7 before Andy Farrell's visitors showed their promise from last weekend with two quick-fire scores.

Firstly flanker Josh van der Flier snuck over from a rolling maul before scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park dummied from a ruck to cross.

- Dupont assist -

Carbery's simple conversion made it 22-21 to set up a scintillating final half an hour.

Les Bleus, hosts for next year's Rugby World Cup, responded with vigour five minutes later with prop Baille crashing over from short-range after a Dupont pass for just his second try in 33 Tests to make it 27-21.

World player of the year Dupont was tactically replaced with 10 minutes left for Maxime Lucu before lock Ryan, standing in for Sexton as skipper, signalled Carbery to kick for the sticks instead of the corner.

The Munster fly-half slotted the penalty to make it a three-point game with less than seven minutes to play.

Galthie's men pushed on into Ireland's 22 with one-pass phases before Jaminet capped off a superb personal and collective performance with a simple three-pointer to put a marker down for the title.