11th October 2015
France 9-24 Ireland
(2015 Rugby World Cup)
As with the group decider I had witnessed at Twickenham twenty-four hours earlier, this one also featured a pair of already-qualified sides with a tangible prize on offer i.e. the avoidance of current World Champions New Zealand in the following weekend’s quarter-finals.
France’s day began poorly as first Frederik Michalak then Scott Spedding each failed with penalty attempts in the opening ten minutes before Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton, by contrast, popped his first attempt over with ease.
Sexton was later forced off with injury mid-way through the first half, his replacement being Ian Madigan. Or “Fecking Madigan”, as one of the Irish supporters behind me labelled him. This fan clearly had little faith in the Leinster man’s abilities. And early-on it was perhaps not difficult to see why, as much of Madigan’s kicking and passing could most charitably be described as wayward. That being said his penalty success to put his side 9-6 ahead, a lead they held until the interval, must have been a real nerve settler. And the lead could have been significantly greater had not Keith Earles juggled then fumbled a try setting-up pass from Tommy Bowe
Following the break the Ireland forwards inexorably began to exert control on proceedings, and in the 51st minute Rob KEARNEY stretched to touch down the opening try of the match. Although replacement Morgan Parra pulled the score back to 14-9 with a penalty, France never really troubled the Irish line thereafter and it was left to Ireland’s Conor MURRAY to clinch the match, he taking advantage of that odd base-of-the-post rule.
24-6 it finished to the Irish, but victory had not come without cost. For there were serious looking injuries to not only the aforementioned Sexton, but also flanker Peter O’Mahony and, perhaps most significantly, captain Paul O’Connell.
And Argentina awaited.