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The BBC's Ian Robertson reports
"Ireland's win means England are now champions-elect"
 real 28k

Brian O'Driscoll
"I'm delighted for David Humphreys - he showed real guts"
 real 28k

David Humphreys
wins the match with a late penalty
 real 28k

Sunday, 19 March, 2000, 18:58 GMT
O'Driscoll treble seals historic win
Brian O'Driscoll plagued the French defence all afternoon
France 25-27 Ireland

Ireland secured their first victory in Paris for 28 years, thanks to a hat-trick of tries from centre Brian O'Driscoll.

Six Nations Championship
The win - Ireland's third in a row - kept alive their, albeit slim hopes, of Six Nations glory. More importantly, however, it injected life into a side who started the tournament as likely contenders for the Wooden Spoon.

It was a supreme performance from O'Driscoll, who has been widely tipped as one of Irish rugby's most exciting prospects.

He tormented his hosts all afternoon and combined well with Henderson to break through the French defence at almost every opportunity.
Ireland celebrate a long-awaited victory
The game started furiously as Keith Wood's men attempted to claim their first win against France for 17 years.

In a dramatic opening, France put together a superb passing movement with Bory diving over in the left corner after just 47 seconds.

For French fans it was the perfect start, until touch judge Jim Fleming ruled the final pass forward.

The warning was clear, however. And French pressure eventually told, with Merceron putting France 6-0 ahead, after Ireland were caught offside twice in as many minutes.

Irish on the up

If the fist quarter looked ominous for Ireland, they soon found their feet.

Again O'Driscoll broke through on a sniping run that prompted Ireland into a brilliant spell of play.

The centre collected the ball well from a French drop-out and Stringer and Clohessy drove into the ensuing ruck.
Brian O'Driscoll: Proved his class in one of rugby's most testing arenas
It sent the home side backwards and there was little to stop O'Driscoll when he appeared in the move for the second time to touch down underneath the posts.

The Irish lead did not last long, however, with France hitting back immediately through scrum-half Laussucq, after a quick tap penalty.

The damage had been done after some superb French driving play and with Dempsey involved in an off-the-ball scuffle with N'Tamack, Laussucq took advantage to leave Merceron a straightforward conversion.

In a match of blistering pace, Kieron Dawson then came close to replying, but knocked on as he touched over for Ireland on the left.

Seconds later Pelous stopped Wood in his tracks with a thunderous tackle that drew gasps from the crowd. It was clear evidence, if any was needed, the home side were not prepared to relinquish their lead lightly.

Deficit cut

Merceron started the second period with a magnificent long penalty after Ireland were caught entering a ruck from an offside position.

And seconds later Dal Maso was brought down inches from the line by Hickie after N'Tamack had broken free from his own area to tear through the Irish defence.

The pace had slowed considerably, with France controlling most of the possession.
Keith Wood: First Irish captain to win in Paris since 1972
Meceron's second penalty, directly in front of the posts, gave France a 12-point lead, after Dal Maso was replaced by ex-captain Raphael Ibanez.

Ireland too made wholesale changes and Paddy Johns was brought in to add experience to an Irish pack that increasingly looked to be flagging.

It proved an inspired move by Warren Gatland, as O'Driscoll cut through for Ireland's second try - to take his international tally to five.

The score silenced the French crowd, but there was no denying the quality of the interplay between O'Driscoll and Henderson. O'Gara converted to cut the lead to six points.

The visitors had picked up the pace. But disaster struck when Johns received a yellow-card for blatantly lying on the ball. He left the field to French cheers as Merceron again increased the home lead.

Gatland then opted for the experience of Humphreys at fly-half as O'Gara was replaced. Almost immediately the Ulster-man added a superb 40-metre penalty to cut the French advantage.

France replied immediately after numerous green shirts were again caught offside, Merceron pushing France eight points ahead.

Ireland ploughed on, however, and they were rewarded with a well-deserved seven points when O'Driscoll ran through for his hat-trick.

The home side had been caught offside, after blatantly diving through a ruck. But an inspired piece of refereeing from Paul Honnis gave Stringer the opportunity to side-step his way through a host of French tacklers, before offloading to the young centre with the try-line beckoning.

With just three minutes remaining Humphreys' successful conversion gave Ireland an all-important two point lead.

It proved enough. Ireland had finally broken their French hoodoo and in Paris of all places.


France: N'Tamack, Bernat-Salles, Desbrosse, Glas, Bory, Merceron, Laussucq, Califano, Dal Maso, Tournaire, Pelous, Brouzet, Costes, Benazzi, T. Lievremont. Replacements: Ibanez, De Villiers, Belot, Mallier, Hueber, Penaud, Venditti.

Ireland: Dempsey, Maggs, O'Driscoll, Henderson, Hickie, O'Gara, Stringer, Clohessy, Wood, Hayes, Galwey, O'Kelly, S. Easterby, Dawson, Foley. Replacements: Sheahan, Fitzpatrick, Johns, Brennan, Humphreys, G. Easterby, Mullins.

Referee: Paul Honnis (New Zealand)

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