Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Ireland held by France

Jamie Heaslip crosses for Ireland
Jamie Heaslip crosses for Ireland

Ireland were denied a rare victory over France when Frederic Michalak converted a late try by Louis Picamoles to secure a 13-13 draw in an error-ridden but compelling RBS 6 Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium.

A match that was viewed as one both sides needed to win to revive their dismal championships produced a draw, even though Ireland led 13-3 at half-time having delivered a tactical masterclass in treacherous conditions.

Paddy Jackson issued an inspired response to his painful debut against Scotland by landing two enormous penalties and a conversion of Jamie Heaslip's 11th-minute try. It was the second successive draw between the rivals after last year's showdown in Paris finished 17-17.

Provided with quick ball from the maul, Brian O'Driscoll fired a kick across the ground for Keith Earls to chase until it was bundled into touch by full-back Yoann Huget. The 10-metre line-out was the platform to pierce the French pack with another maul and this time the momentum carried them over the line with captain Heaslip touching down.

Critically given his difficulty from the kicking tee against Scotland, Jackson landed a tricky conversion to settle his nerves, shortly before Michalak missed a routine penalty. A collapsed scrum gave Michalak a shot at goal and the Toulon half-back was accurate on this occasion, but Ireland restored their seven-point lead with a monster penalty by Jackson.

Jackson had missed a simpler kick shortly before and failing with this far more challenging attempt had the potential to damage his confidence, but the ball dropped the right side of the crossbar. A near-identical penalty followed from the 21-year-old moments later and not to be outdone by his Ulster colleague, centre Luke Marshall produced a mammoth touchfinder.

France staged a revival shortly before half-time, only for Michalak to prove wayward once more. With the wind behind him, Jackson attempted an even more formidable penalty but this time he lacked the distance.

Scrum-half Conor Murray raced into a gap from a free-kick, but what followed was Ireland's worst passage of play as over complication undermined a promising attack. Morgan Parra took over the kicking and he made no mistake with his first attempt, but pulled a second wide.

France wasted a three on one overlap as Ireland's defence began to splinter before a strong final quarter from the visitors. Disaster struck for Ireland when Picamoles barged over with seven minutes remaining and Michalak landed the challenging conversion to level the score.

Picamoles then intervened to deny Earls a possible try as the match headed for a nerve-shredding climax, but the winning score failed to arrive. The closing moments were spent worrying over substitute scrum-half Eoin Reddan, who was administered oxygen and then carried off after a tackler fell heavily on his leg.

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