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O'Connell rues Ireland's missed opportunity in Paris

By Duncan Bech

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell admitted his side had wasted a glorious opportunity to claim a precious victory in Paris following their 17-17 RBS 6 Nations draw with France.

The Irish led 17-6 at half-time thanks to two tries from winger Tommy Bowe, but failed to score again as Les Bleus staged their fightback.

The outcome ended France's Grand Slam aspirations - Wales are now the only side who can obtain that prize - and effectively concluded Ireland's slim title hopes.

One victory is a dismal return for four decades of campaigning in the French capital and O'Connell accepted Ireland should have been toasting victory tonight.

"There's certainly a big feeling of defeat and an opportunity lost," he said. "We scored an intercept try and one really good, well worked try.

"We then conceded a really soft, poor try and we're really disappointed with our second half performance.

"I'm not sure what the penalty count was, I think it was 6-1 which makes it very difficult to compete. We're very frustrated and very disappointed."

Centre Wesley Fofana capitalised on a kind bounce before accelerating clear for France's try in the 51st minute, with the boot of Morgan Parra doing the rest.

"At half-time we said we must score first, which is what you say every time you lead away from home, but France are a very good side," O'Connell said.

"They're World Cup finalists, they nearly won the World Cup so they were always going to come hard at us.

"Unfortunately they got the first score. Had we got the first score it would have been really good for us.

"To not score in the second half was very frustrating. To not tag on at least three points was our undoing."

Bowe's brilliant double gave Ireland hope of claiming their first win in Paris since 2000.

The first was an intercept score from Aurelien Rougerie's lazy pass and the second a superb solo effort finished with a chip ahead and dummy of full-back Clement Poitrenaud.

"Tommy did very well," O'Connell added. "From a forward's point of view, when you look up and see an intercept try it's such a fillip, it's like points for free in some ways. It gives you a great lift.

"It was then a fantastic finish for the second try after some great work from Sean O'Brien and great hands from the backs.

"It was a lovely chip and great support from Rob Kearney. That's what Tommy's there to do and why he's rated as highly as he is in the world today."

Scrum-half Conor Murray was carried off on a stretcher with a suspected hyper-extended knee, with early indications suggesting he escaped ligament damage.

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited France's dressing room after the game and congratulated the players on the spirit they had displayed.

Les Bleus coach Phillipe Saint-Andre praised Ireland's aggressive defence.

"At half-time the glass was definitely half empty and we had a lot of issues with their rush defence," he said.

"I told the players to be tight and be aware of their defence. You can't give points like that to Ireland, particularly in Irish-type weather like this."

Belfast Telegraph

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