Six Nations: Ireland rugby team arrive home in Dublin after win over France in Brian O'Driscoll's last international
The Ireland rugby team have arrived home to a rapturous welcome in Dublin after winning the Six Nations.
Hundreds gathered to greet the champions, who defeated France in Paris on Saturday.
It couldn't have kicked off a better start to the St Patrick's Day celebrations, as Brian O'Driscoll arrived home with trophy in hand following his last international match.
For Ireland's Six Nations showdown in Paris, it was a case of victory at all costs – victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, as Winston Churchhill famously said.
In recent times, Irish fans have all too often had to endure plenty of terror, and the road to this championship win has no doubt been long and hard.
For such an array of talent in this generation of players, the single solitary title in 2009 represented a sorry return.
Victory is won not in miles but in inches – and Ireland yesterday battled hard all over the pitch.
Six Nations champions after thrilling victory over France
Ireland won the RBS 6 Nations title after beating France 22-20 in Paris, to give Brian O'Driscoll a fairytale send-off, in a thrilling final game of the tournament.
Johnny Sexton's two tries helped Brian O'Driscoll complete the fairytale ending to his international career as Ireland claimed the RBS 6 Nations title by edging out France in Paris.
Sexton ran in two tries, missed five points with the boot and was knocked out cold trying to tackle wrecking ball centre Mathieu Bastareaud.
Ireland rebuffed a late French onslaught to claim their first Six Nations title since 2009 and just a second win in 42 years in Paris, with wing Andrew Trimble also on the scoresheet.
O'Driscoll capped his 14st and final international appearance with just a second career Six Nations title, the storybook ending so craved by the Irish nation.
To his stunning Paris hat-trick in 2000, now O'Driscoll can add a stubborn, brutal refusal to be cowed.
After 15 glittering years on the world stage, the Leinster stalwart and Ireland icon can finally hang up his international boots a happy man.
Ireland were forced to weather a hefty first-quarter storm, France blasting out firing after criticism of scrum and line-out deficiencies.
Maxime Machenaud slotted two penalty goals to nudge France into the early lead, Bastareaud blasting through the visiting backline on three occasions.
Chris Henry's cute offload outfoxed the home defence after smart build-up play, and Sexton caught sight of the half-gap to cut back inside and over the whitewash.
The former Leinster playmaker scuffed the conversion though, a straightforward effort he should have buried.
Ireland quickly doubled their try count though, thanks to another Joe Schmidt-inspired ruse.
The head coach's wily insight has proved a feature of his first Six Nations, and his nous this time led Ireland to force space around the tackle fringes.
Big, lumbering forwards do not enjoy working into defensive position. France stuck to their typecasting, Conor Murray blasted through the gap and sent Trimble under the sticks.
And it was O'Driscoll's straight and true drive to the gain line that set the ruse in motion.
Big, lumbering forwards love a rolling maul though, and after a textbook drive, Remi Tales chipped to the wing, Yoann Huget tapped inside at full leap and Brice Dulin had the easy run home.
Machenaud's expert touchline conversion wrestled France a 13-12 lead.
Tales tried a snap drop-goal as France built the attack after a loose high bomb from Sexton, but his effort drifted wide.
Prop Nicolas Mas, who spent the early part of the week battling with the French press, departed with a troublesome right arm complaint, replaced by Rabah Slimani.
Belfast Telegraph Digital