IRELAND'S dreams of a first Grand Slam remain alive after their second ever win over France by an edgy 15-10 in the Women's Six Nations at a foggy Dubarry Park on Friday.
The French came with legitimate ambition to win the Championship and they started well, out-half Sandrine Agricole landing a penalty from the left to settle the visitors' nerves in the ninth minute.
It was a physical arm wrestle until Allison Miller outflanked the French down the left and the ball was swung right for full-back Niamh Briggs to sweep in for an excellent Irish try.
The French went to their maul to recover their confidence. It worked. The hooker Gaelle Mignot was in the van of a powerful surge for a try, converted by Agricole from the right touchline for a 10-5 lead in the 23rd minute.
They were also content to get their big forwards moving onto the ball, while Ireland wanted to bring their back three of Briggs, Ashleigh Baxter and the always dangerous Allison Miller into the game.
The Irish had to turn the tide after the interval and they did so in the third quarter, moving in front from Briggs' conversion of a try by tight-head prop Ailis Egan.
They couldn't sit on a two-point lead, fly-half Stapleton going close and scrum-half Larissa Muldoon twice spilling the pill to release the pressure valve when France were stretched.
The visitors preferred to trigger their one-out runners, showing little imagination in their play for fly-half Agricole to lash wildly at a misdirected drop goal in the 71st minute.
Ireland went to Briggs' big boot for distance and their close-in driving to frustrate France. It was effective enough to draw an injury-time penalty for Briggs.
Ireland's last opponents will be Italy – their defeat by England on Saturday gave Ireland the championship – but there is a Grand Slam to be won in Milan on St Patrick's Day.