France notched up their first victory over Ireland since 2011 on Saturday, a late converted Maxime Medard try producing an unlikely 10-9 victory to make it two from two in this year’s Six Nations.
Such was the disparity between the two sides over the opening hour, it would not be harsh to say France, 23-21 winners over Italy in their opening match last weekend, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Two-time defending champions Ireland, who opened their campaign with a bruising 16-16 draw against Wales, were completely dominant against a toothless French side in the first 60 minutes, but were unable to convert that pressure into points.
Jonathan Sexton kicked three penalties to one from Jules Plisson in the first-half, before Medard crossed for the decisive try, converted by Plisson, the result of some outstanding forward pressure.
Ireland opened the match in dominant fashion, pinning the home side back deep in their own half.
Sexton spurned a pot at goal in the sixth minute after France strayed offside, instead going for the corner flag, but a knock-on put paid to any hopes of scoring points.
When lock Yoann Maestri took out Sexton in the 14th minute with a shoulder charge off the ball, the Irish fly-half made no mistake with the penalty.
Ireland suffered a hammer blow when rampaging openside flanker Sean O’Brien, who had often acted as first receiver in the opening quarter, limped off after 20 minutes.
The French seemed rudderless in managing their gameplan, a misfiring line-out and under-pressure scrum at set-piece aligned with silly moments of ill-discipline to hand the advantage to Ireland.
Sexton booted his second penalty just before the half-hour mark after a French ruck infringement on the edge of their 22m area.
Winger Dave Kearney added to Ireland’s injury woes when he failed to recover from a monstrous tackle from France skipper Guilhem Guirado.
A lazy effort to roll away from a ruck by Devin Toner handed Plisson a chance at goal just minutes later, the Stade Francais playmaker nailing France’s first points of the rugged encounter.
That preceded France’s first real passage of sustained attack, ended by a Plisson drop-goal that drifted wide.
Sexton hit his third three-pointer as the French scrum worryingly imploded, Plisson then missing his second, to take Ireland into the break 9-3 up.
The second period saw Noves ring the changes to shore up the scrum and add some zip into the backline.
A more open game promptly followed, Guirado opting for a kick to touch instead of a relatively simple penalty effort for Plisson in the 63rd minute.
Andrew Trimble was on hand to palm down what would have been a try-making pass by Plisson, but French tails were up.
France re-mobilised well and were denied a try by the television match official George Ayoub after driving over the Irish line.
Bolstered by replacement props Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani, the home side was awarded a series of penalties in front of the posts and opted for three scrums instead of taking the points.
With the backing of a vociferous crowd, the pressure eventually paid off, full-back Medard slicing over the line after a nice dart and pass by Maxime Machenaud.
Plisson kicked the extras to seal an unlikely victory and leave the Irish scratching their heads.