Ireland dashes France's hopes of a grand slam
FRANCE 17 IRELAND 17
Wesley Fofana of France crashes over for a try despite the tackle of Rob Kearney.
PARIS: Ireland ended French hopes of the Six Nations Grand Slam on Sunday as they fought off a fierce France second-half comeback to draw 17-17.
Two tries by Tommy Bowe - taking his tally to five for the tournament - and seven points from Jonathan Sexton with Morgan Parra kicking two penalties gave the Irish a 17-6 half-time lead.
However, a try by Wesley Fofana - making it three in three matches - and two more penalties by Parra levelled the game and denied the Irish their first win here since 2000 and only third in 30 years.
Ireland's Tommy Bowe scores a try. Photo: Reuters
"To be ahead at half-time and then get that result is disappointing," said Ireland captain Paul O'Connell.
"It is frustrating not to win. We played good rugby in the first half but in the second half there were a few penalties that I would like to have a look at. This was a great opportunity to win -- we didn't take it."
Ireland coach Declan Kidney praised his team's efforts.
Stalemate at Stade de France
France's fly half Francois Trinh-Duc. Photo: AFP
"We have been in two close matches now, the boys put in a huge effort," he said.
"We said at half-time that we needed to be true to ourselves and don't try and do anything magical. These games are decided by tight margins."
Fofana was shattered at the seeing his team's Grand Slam dream ended.
"It's great to score another try but it's frustrating to end up with a draw which ends our Grand Slam hopes," he said.
Sexton was presented with a great chance to give the Irish the lead in the seventh minute but the Leinster fly-half completely fluffed the attempt in front of the posts.
However, the Irish did break the deadlock shortly before the quarter-of-an-hour mark as Bowe intercepted Aurelien Rougerie's long pass out to Clement Poitrenaud and ran in to touch down under the posts - Sexton made no mistake this time to make it 7-0.
The French took their time to break into Irish territory but when they did they carved out a good opening which was only stopped as Conor Murray went offside but Parra stepped up to kick the resulting penalty.
However, the French were promptly penalised down their end and Sexton slotted it over to restore the seven point gap.
Parra, though, quickly reduced it as the Clermont star converted a penalty from just inside the Irish half - the ball creeping over the bar and to add insult to injury hitting an unsuspecting Bowe on the head.
Parra missed with another opportunity in the 35th minute aftar Cian Healy became the butt of the French fans frustration when coming back from an offside position he blocked what could well have been a try-scoring pass from Rougerie to Vincent Clerc.
The Irish then fashioned a try out of nothing just before the break.
Breaking out of their 22 Keith Earls offloaded to Bowe and the 28-year-old wing broke one tackle before chipping ahead and outstripping Poitrenaud to touch down - Sexton's conversion went in off the post to give the visitors a healthy 17-6 half-time lead.
That became 17-9 in the 47th minute as Parra made no mistake from wide out on the left and the lead was reduced further three minutes later when Fofana's individual brilliance saw him win the ball outside the Irish 22 and using his electric speed he beat Rob Kearney to touch down in the corner.
Parra missed the conversion to leave the Irish holding on to a 17-14 lead but he had them all square shortly before the hour mark as he landed a long range penalty.
The Irish ill-fortune continued within seconds as Murray went to ground clutching his knee in agony and had to be stretchered off to be replaced by Eoin Reddan.
The visitors spurned two great chances when Rory Best's throw went askew with the lineout metres from the French line and although they regained possession from the French, veteran centre Gordon D'Arcy knocked on when under no pressure.
The French also made a mess of trying to end the stalemate as Lionel Beauxis's attempt at a drop goal barely took off and the Irish cleared.
The hosts came back and punched away at the Irish defence which held strong and, unlike in the 23-21 last minute defeat by Wales, did not concede a late penalty to deservedly claim a share of the spoils.
FRANCE 17 (Wesley Fofana try; Morgan Parra 4 pens)) drew with IRELAND 17 (Tommy Bowe 2 tries; Jonathan Sexton 2 con, pen) Referee: Dave Pearson (ENG). Attendance: 79,600