Bastareaud bulldozers slam Irish aspirations

France 33 Ireland 10: Champions' hopes of a repeat feat are flattened by fearsome Frenchmen

The river of self-belief that has flowed through Irish rugby over the past 18 months ran dry in the frozen wastes of Paris last night. France crushed Irish aspirations of another Grand Slam. This was a demonstration of forward play. What was more, as the bands played the Marseillaise to celebrate a famous victory the French produced some marvellously inventive back play. Ireland fell apart.

History, Brian O'Driscoll's men knew at the start, was firmly against them. Ireland have only two wins in the French capital since 1952. From the moment the visitors' full-back, Rob Kearney, knocked on the kick-off, France seized the stage.

Ireland suffered a first defeat in 13 matches dating back to the autumn of 2008 because their forwards could not match the explosive power of the French, especially at close quarters. The French pack gave a towering performance except in the line-out, where they lost four of their own throws in the first 25 minutes.

The sheer determination with which they marshalled their defences when Ireland won the ball was compelling. Early on, Ireland got close and battered on a heavy French oak door. It did not budge. With tremendous discipline, structure and will, the French threw back the raiders. Twice, Ireland should have scored. A cruel bounce denied Gordon D'Arcy after a brilliant 16th-minute break, Clément Poitrenaud recovering to save the score. Then, right on half-time, Paul O'Connell knocked on with the line beckoning.

By then the die was cast, not least because of the Ireland loosehead prop, Cian Healy, pulling back Morgan Parra, the France scrum-half, in the 17th minute and incurring a yellow card. France had an attacking position, and although they could not score from a series of scrums, the hooker William Servat found the space to crash over from close range. Parra, who had kicked an early penalty, converted for a 10-0 lead.

Ronan O'Gara kicked a 28th-minute penalty for Ireland but Mathieu Bastareaud then hammered through a defensive gap and made it deep into the Irish 22. When the ruck ball went left the other centre, Yannick Jauzion, exploited another hole to drive over. Parra's conversion made it 17-3 to France at the break.

Even with Healy back, the Irish scrum was forced to scramble. Furthermore, France's magnificent back row dominated in broken play. Thierry Dusautoir led inspiration-ally. Imanol Harinordoquy again looked an immense athlete and the openside, Fulgence Ouedraogo, roamed to lethal effect. France were overwhelmingly superior in the mauls, which they moved forward with pace and power. There was little the outplayed Irish could do.

Ireland lost Kearney before half-time but the real damage had been done up front. What ball they got in the second half was received under pressure. All the dash and inspiration came from the French.

Their fly-half, François Trinh-Duc, looked a growing threat and he made one spectacular dash to the Irish line before being halted just short. France's pressure had to pay off, though, and Poitrenaud scored in the left corner after Bastareaud had held off O'Driscoll before slipping the scoring pass. Parra converted again and then dropped a goal from 42 metres. David Wallace was worked over for an Irish try by Stephen Ferris and O'Driscoll, but France reached 30 with a 46m penalty from Parra before Fréddie Michalak dropped a late goal.

O'Driscoll did not accept that the defeat meant the end of a era. "I certainly don't think we feel we have come to the end of a cycle," he said. "Obviously there is huge disappointment and we haven't felt that for over a year. But a result like that is quite grounding at times. You get a little reality check from those games. It was quite a complete all-round performance from the French. It was an impressive display and not just in the forwards."

France's coach, Marc Lièvremont, said: "We can now focus only on Wales, our next match. But I was pleased with the structure and discipline we showed and I thought Morgan Parra was exceptional."

France C Poitrenaud; V Clerc (D Marty, 48), M Bastareaud, Y Jauzion (F Michalak, 67), A Palisson (J Malzieu, 24); F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; T Domingo, W Servat (D Szarzewski, 49), N Mas (S Marconnet, 49-72), P Pape (J Pierre, 74), L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), I Harinordoquy (J Bonnaire, 62), F Ouedraogo.

Ireland: R Kearney (P Wallace, 35); T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt; P Wallace, 17-19), G D'Arcy, K Earls; R O'Gara (J Sexton, 69), T O'Leary (E Reddan, 69); C Healy, J Flannery (R Best, 61), J Hayes (T Court, 49), L Cullen (D Ryan, 61), P O'Connell, S Ferris (Court, 19-27), J Heaslip, D Wallace.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all