Sunday 23 July 2017

The game at a glance

Star turn

Imanol Harinordoquy

The No 8 has had his ups and downs with the French national side since his breakthrough in 2002 but, still only 29, he is at the peak of his powers. Harinordoquy was everywhere on Saturday, knocking back the Irish ball-carriers, driving through tackles, fielding kicks and providing a focal point for French dominance. With 20 minutes to go, Harinordoquy was taken off to a huge ovation. Job done.

Turning point

It is debatable whether it would have affected the result, but if Ireland were to end their Paris pain they had to make an early impact on the scoreboard and sow doubt in the minds of the French. Gordon D'Arcy made a superb break up the middle, chipped ahead and cleared the cover. If the ball bounced the right way the centre was over under the posts and Ireland had the start their early dominance deserved. It didn't and France began to turn the screw.

Magic moment

The huge hype surrounding gargantuan centre Mathieu Bastareaud (above) seem disproportionate in the lead-up and Brian O'Driscoll was ready to cut him down to size. After 60 minutes, Bastareaud embarked on another rampaging run, O'Driscoll hit him from the side only for the centre to casually fend off Ireland's captain with his right hand while flicking the ball out of the back of his left for Clement Poitrenaud to claim the third try. Breathtaking.

Ref watch

For once, Wayne Barnes' whistle was not the dominant factor but he will come under the spotlight in the fall-out from the Jerry Flannery incident.

Crowd watch

The intention was to quieten the home fans early on and turn them on their own team. However, once France began to pull clear, they received lusty support from the full house. When the Mexican waves began, you knew the game was up.

Talking point

France beat up an Irish side that had physically dominated world champions South Africa a few months previously. Can it simply be put down to the Paris factor or is our World Cup goose cooked 19 months out?

What's next?

Saturday, February 27: England v Ireland, Twickenham, 4.0.

Irish Independent

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