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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 15:56 GMT
Irish come of age against France
Ireland 22-15 France
A superb individual try from Brian O'Driscoll and five Ronan O'Gara penalties secured Ireland's first home victory against France in 18 years.
In a tense game, France started poorly and struggled against a new-look Ireland side brimming with confidence.
O'Driscoll's touchdown was typically breathtaking, but it was O'Gara's unerring accuracy with the boot that ultimately decided the match.
France hit back late in the second-half through captain Fabien Pelous and wing Philippe Bernat-Salles, but they were beaten by the clock in the tense closing minutes.
The outcome secured back-to back victories over France, after last year's heroic 27-25 win in Paris, and signalled their intentions in this year's championship, which might read something along the lines of 'England beware'.
In a tense first half, Ireland enjoyed the lion's share of possession and territory. But despite some superb midfield breaks from O'Driscoll, they nevertheless failed to break down a passionate French defence.
Lamaison was yellow carded on the half-hour and though the Irish fans sensed the possibility of a breakthrough, they instead only managed to increase their lead to six points thanks to O'Gara's three first-half penalties.
But Ireland themselves were guilty of not taking prime chances, losing the ball in the tackle and failing to keep the ball in hand after a fabulous O'Driscoll break.
Lamaison returned immediately after the break, but it was Ireland who looked the better side.
France, guilty of handling the ball on the floor, were again punished by the uncompromising boot of O'Gara, who pushed his side 12-3 ahead in the 47th minute.
Seconds later, however, the match came alight and it was no surprise that O'Driscoll was the man to provide the spark.
The hat-trick hero of Paris last year broke away from the blue shirts down the right to beat the defence and touch down in the corner.
The only doubt was whether he grounded the ball, but after consultation with the fourth official, Australian referee Scott Young raised his arms to the delight of the Lansdowne Road crowd.
O'Driscoll is fast becoming the most impressive player in world rugby and if there were any doubts Irish rugby had been reborn, O'Gara dismissed them by slotting the conversion from the touchline.
With their heads held high, Ireland began to run rampant. O'Gara broke through the blue line again on 55 minutes and when Garbajosa was penalised for holding onto the ball added yet another three points to push his side 19 points ahead.
Much as France attempted to counter-attack, the green wall held firm. Even the Ireland scrum, which had looked so shaky during the opening moments, gained some consistency and with Malcolm O'Kelly dominating in the line-outs, the visitors were living off scraps.
With just 20 minutes to go, France finally woke up, however, and began playing with a sense of urgency that has been so devoid in their play this season.
Captain Fabien Pelous pulled back a vital five points, after Ireland gave away a penalty metres from the line and Lamaison slotted the extras to reduce the deficit to 12.
A blistering blind-side run from Bernat-Salles then took play back inside the Irish half, but the visitors failed to take advantage of a three man overlap on the right touchline.
Still France pressed on, while Ireland seemed to have lost much of their initial spark.
Bernat-Salles' 23rd international try with just nine minutes to go again brought the game to life and sparked danger for Ireland, despite Lamaison's dismal effort to convert.
With Christophe Dominici coming on as a replacement, France looked a different side, but they still needed a converted try to break even.
They were thrown a lifeline when O'Gara missed a potential sixth penalty with just six minutes to go.
But it ultimately proved too much for France, who departed the field with their heads bowed as the Dublin crowd began their party.
Ireland: Girvan Dempsey, Denis Hickie, Rob Henderson, Brian O'Driscoll, Tyrone Howe, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, John Hayes, Keith Wood, Peter Clohessy, Mick Galwey, Malcolm O'Kelly, Alan Quinlan, Anthony Foley, David Wallace.
France: Xavier Garbajosa, Philippe Bernat-Salles, Richard Dourthe, Franck Comba, David Bory; Christophe Lamaison, Philippe Carbonneau, Christophe Juillet, Olivier Magne, Christophe Moni, Fabien Pelous, David Auradou, Pieter De Villiers, Raphael Ibanez, Sylvain Marconnet.
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