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Last Updated:  Saturday, 8 March, 2003, 16:02 GMT
Heroic Ireland edge out France

Ireland's players celebrate a superb win over France
Ireland's players enjoy the moment after a famous win
Ireland 15-12 France

Ireland confirmed their Grand Slam potential with a hard-fought 15-12 win over France in the RBS Six Nations at Lansdowne Road.

Twelve points from the boot of fly-half David Humphreys and an opportunistic drop-goal from Geordan Murphy edged out the French, whose points all came from Francois Gelez penalties.

But it was Ireland's incredible defence which won the game as they endured a torrid final five minutes with France throwing everything at them.

Murphy gave Ireland the ideal start with a sweetly-struck drop-goal in the opening minute.

The full-back demonstrated his astute rugby brain after a poor pass from scrum-half Peter Stringer left him no option but to go for the posts.

Ireland: 15
Pens: Humphreys 4
Drop goal: Murphy
France: 12
Pens: Gelez 4

With a strong wind swirling around the ground, both sides initially struggled to put phases of play together before France sprung to life with a series of rolling mauls deep in Ireland's 22.

But a knock-on from hooker Raphael Ibanez with the line at his mercy cost them dear.

Another period of sustained French pressure was relieved where Malcolm O'Kelly intercepted Dimitri Yachvili's pass and sprinted 50 metres upfield to clear the danger.

Humphreys - winning his 50th cap - put Ireland further ahead on 10 minutes with a well-judged penalty, but Gelez's 15th-minute reply cut the lead to three points.

Ireland, kicking away possession needlessly, were grateful for Gelez's missed penalty in the 25th minute.

I would say that we rode our luck a little out there today, particularly in the final quarter
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan

Humphreys extended his side's lead with another penalty after half an hour.

Kevin Maggs' powerful running and Brian O'Driscoll's dancing feet in the Irish midfield started to give the home side the advantage as the half developed.

Gelez spurned an opportunity to cut the defecit with another miss as half time approached.

And Humphreys quickly showed his opposite number how to do it with an excellent three-pointer from halfway.

Deep into first-half injury time Ireland survived a scare with Gelez's drop-goal attempt causing havoc after rebounding off the post, and it took an outstanding tackle from O'Driscoll on the line to deny Olivier Magne.

France started the second half with real attacking intent and Stringer's brave tackle on the rampaging Imanol Harinordoquy was vital.

With the rain starting to fall, Gelez punished Ireland for going offside with a penalty on 46 minutes

We got the punishment we deserved
France coach Bernard Laporte

Five minutes later, Humphreys surprisingly missed in front of the posts as the conditions continued to deteriorate.

A superb break from Magne put Ireland under severe pressure and they were only saved by Keith Gleeson's tackle.

With the tension clearly getting to the players, both sides increasingly relied on bombarding the full-backs with high balls - but both Murphy and Clement Poitrenaud dealt with the threat well.

After coming through a difficult ten-minute spell of sustained defending, Ireland began to exert some pressure of their own and Humphreys held his nerve with another penalty on 69 minutes.

Two minutes later though, Gelez's penalty again cut the lead to just three points.

After Ireland went desperately close to scoring a match-winning try, Humphreys left the crowd gasping when his penalty struck the post.

From the rebound, France nearly went the length of the pitch but last-ditch defending from Stringer and Hickie saved the day for Ireland.

Ireland: Murphy; Kelly, O'Driscoll, Maggs, Hickie; Humphreys, Stringer; Horan, S. Byrne, Hayes, Longwell, O'Kelly, Costello, Gleeson, Foley
Replacements: Sheahan, Fitzpatrick, Cullen, A Quinlan, G Easterby, O'Gara, Henderson

France: Poitrenaud; Rougerie, Garbajosa, Traille, Clerc; Gelez, Yachvili; Crenca, Ibanez, Marconnet, Pelous, Brouzet, Betsen, Magne, Harinordoqui
Replacements: Rue, Califano, Auradou, Chabal, Barrau, Merceron, Castaignede.

Referee: Andre Watson (South Africa)

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll
"We coped better with the conditions"

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan
"We worked hard for the win"

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