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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 March, 2005, 15:22 GMT
Ireland 19-26 France
Serge Betsen crunches into Ronan O'Gara
Ireland (9) 19
Try: O'Driscoll
Pens: O'Gara (4)
Con: O'Gara
France (18) 26
Tries: Dominici (2), Baby
Pen: Yachvili (2)
Con: Yachvili
DG: Delaigue
Att: 48,452
Ireland's Grand Slam dreams were left in tatters as France claimed a deserved victory at Lansdowne Road.

Tries from Christophe Dominici and debutant Benoit Baby helped France into an 18-9 lead at the interval with Ronan O'Gara slotting all the Irish points.

Ireland battled bravely in the second half and Brian O'Driscoll's magnificent 72nd-minute touchdown gave the home side hope.

But Dominici's second try late on made the game safe for the visitors.

Despite opting to play against the wind, France made a bright start and O'Driscoll had to produce a try-saving interception in the second minute after a burst by full-back Julien Laharrague.

However, the Irish regrouped and a ruck infringement allowed O'Gara to notch the opening score of the game in the seventh minute.

But France levelled within three minutes with a superbly controlled rolling maul into the Irish 22 setting up Delaigue for a neat drop goal.

We got in a position to do it but the margins are really tight at this level
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan

O'Gara restored Ireland's lead in the 18th minute after O'Driscoll had been high-tackled by Delaigue.

But once again France, who were dominating the forward exchanges, struck back almost immediately through a Dimitri Yachvili penalty after Simon Easterby had been caught offside.

French indiscipline then offered O'Gara two opportunities in quick succession to put Ireland ahead again.

After just missing with the difficult first effort, he was successful with the second chance to put Eddie O'Sullivan's side 9-6 up after 25 minutes.

However, the French responded in brilliant fashion three minutes later by scoring a glorious try with Christophe Dominici producing the finish after a flowing move involving Baby, Layarrague and Cedric Heymans.

The game itself was a good game. We knew how good a side they were before the game
France coach Bernard Laporte

Yachvili missed the conversion but France soon added seven more points to put Ireland's Grand Slam ambitions in dire peril.

The second French try came in the 32nd minute. Another dreadful Irish line-out resulted in quick ball for the visitors, allowing an unopposed Baby to cross for a try with the Irish defence at sixes and sevens.

Yachvili added the conversion to extend France's lead to 18-9.

The Irish gave themselves hope seven minutes after the break when they forced a penalty which O'Gara slotted.

But despite the Irish pack gaining a measure of equality with their opponents, the next score was an excellent Yachvili penalty in the 61st minute which extended France's lead to nine points again.

O'Gara had a penalty chance from a central position in the French 22 in the 65th minute but his kick for the corner prompted a series of ferocious attacks but no points.

But seven minutes later, O'Driscoll broke through three French tackles to score under the posts and give the Irish hope.

O'Gara's conversion left only two points between the team and set up a potentially dramatic finish.

But Dominici's breakaway try two minutes from time made the game safe for France.


Ireland: Murphy, Dempsey, O'Driscoll, Maggs, Hickie, O'Gara, Stringer, Corrigan, Byrne, Hayes, O'Kelly, O'Connell, S. Easterby, O'Connor, Foley.
Replacements: Horan for Corrigan (71), Miller for Foley (71). Not Used: Sheahan, O'Callaghan, G. Easterby, Humphreys, Duffy.

France: Laharrague, Heymans, Jauzion, Baby, Dominici, Delaigue, Yachvili, Marconnet, Bruno, Mas, Pelous, Thion, Betsen, Nyanga, Bonnaire.
Replacements: Michalak for Delaigue (70), Szarzewski for Bruno (77), De Villiers for Mas (41), Pape for Pelous (72), Lamboley for Nyanga (55). Not Used: Mignoni, Marty.

Referee: T Spreadbury (England)


WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights: Ireland 19-26 France


Interview: Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan


Interview: France coach Bernard Laporte



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