JAMIE Heaslip admitted Ireland were left with the bitter taste of defeat despite drawing yesterday's Six Nations clash with France 17-17.
The Irish squandered a 17-6 interval lead, inspired by two tries from winger Tommy Bowe, as Les Bleus struck back in the second half with a try from Wesley Fofana and six points from the boot of Morgan Parra.
The Grand Slam is now beyond France - only Wales can claim the ultimate prize - while Ireland's title hopes are all but over after the outcome in Paris extended the worst away run in the championship's history, consisting of two victories in 40 years (1972 and 2000) for Ireland.
"I was interviewed by the BBC after the game and they said, 'You must be happy with that result', but it's a pretty hard pill to swallow," Heaslip said. "We came here to win and outscored France two tries to one, so to draw is a mixed bag. It's frustrating.
"We were confident at half-time. We'll look at the penalties, some of them we might agree with, some of them we might not. The self-belief was there, it's always there. We don't doubt ourselves."
The brilliant Bowe added his voice to the chorus of disappointment by insisting the stalemate had taken the gloss off his clinical finishing.
The Ospreys star raised his strike rate to 24 tries in 47 Test appearances after crossing twice in the first half, the second a glorious solo effort.
"I'm delighted to score against France, tries against them aren't easy to come by so to get over twice in one day is very satisfying," the 28-year-old said. "You would hope to get a victory out of it, but unfortunately we didn't. In the second half I barely touched the ball. It's bittersweet."
The outlook on scrum-half Conor Murray, who was carried off on a stretcher in the second half with a knee injury, was positive, with early indications suggesting a hyper-extension rather than ligament damage.
Ireland must now pick themselves up for Saturday's clash with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.