Sport Six Nations

Thursday 18 January 2018

Paul O'Connell: The game was held hostage by the scrum and that's where France won it

Paul O'Connell was working for the BBC at the Stade de France this afternoon
Paul O'Connell was working for the BBC at the Stade de France this afternoon Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland saw their RBS 6 Nations title slipping away after a 10-9 defeat to France, punished in Paris for poor scrummaging and wasting a host of half-chances.

Maxime Medard's late try snatched victory, Jules Plisson landing the vital conversion as France secured their second straight win under Guy Noves.

Ireland failed to fend off France's deliberate ploy of unleashing big-scrummaging props Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous from the bench and lost Mike McCarthy, Dave Kearney and Sean O'Brien to injury.

Joe Schmidt's men let a second successive victory in France for the first time in 89 years slip through their fingers, unable to capitalise on early dominance and severely battered at the scrum in the second half.

Captain Rory Best had promised Ireland would not be "caught cold" at the scrum as in last weekend's 16-16 draw with Wales.

Ireland coped well enough in the first half but had no answer to France's impact front-row replacements.

The visitors knew what was coming but without the injured Marty Moore, and with Cian Healy and Mike Ross still working their way back to fitness, were too depleted in the front row to cope.

France bludgeoned Ireland with four successive five-metre scrums after Damien Chouly was denied a try in a defining final quarter.

Once Les Bleus opted not to chase a pushover or penalty score, full-back Medard cut a neat and tight line off Plisson and scooted under the posts.

Plisson posted the conversion, France led for the first time with 10 minutes to play, and they comfortably kept control until the final whistle.

And so Ireland's attempt at an unprecedented third consecutive Six Nations title is most likely at an end.

Speaking on BBC, former Ireland captain Paul O'Connell admitted that France's strength in depth in the front row was the difference in the end.

"It's a 8-1 penalty count against Ireland in the second half," he said

"France changed their front row after fourth minutes. Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani came on and it made a massive difference to France.

"It's a pity that that rugby matches are held hostage to the scrum at times, on days like this they are and that was the winning of the game for France.

"Similar to Ireland in the first half, they turned down a kick at goal and went to the corner. It may have took them a while but they did get over the line and score.

"I was almost happy when the ball popped out because I thought it was going to be a penalty try but unfortunately we didn't defend it and fair play to France."

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