France burst into life when Maxime Medard’s second-half try inspired them to their first victory over Ireland in five years with a 10-9 win in the Six Nations on Saturday.
Coach Guy Noves, who took over from Philippe Saint-Andre after last year’s World Cup, had promised spectacular rugby and Les Bleus did their best to deliver at the Stade de France, scoring the only try with 10 minutes remaining.
Flyhalf Jules Plisson converted, adding to his first-half penalty, while defending champions Ireland’s points came from the penalty of Jonny Sexton, who was replaced with a suspected neck problem near the end.
France, who lost 24-9 to the Irish in the World Cup pool phase, now lead the standings with two wins after beating Italy 23-21 in their opening game. Ireland must wait for their first victory after last weekend’s 16-16 draw against Wales.
Les Bleus had not beaten Ireland in their last five games, winning for the last time in a World Cup warm-up game in 2011, and they were bothered by the visitors’ superiority at the breakdown but they never gave up.
Injury-plagued Ireland took confidence from the return of flanker Sean O’Brien and fullback Rob Kearney. O’Brien, however, appeared to sustain a hamstring injury midway through the first half and was replaced by Tommy O’Donnell.
Sexton kicked the first penalty of the game to put the visitors in front as Ireland played their usual gritty game.
He doubled the tally after France were once again penalised at the ruck.
Dave Kearney left the field with a crushed shoulder after a brutal tackle, with Fergus McFadden taking his place.
France reduced the arrears thanks to Plisson’s penalty. Their lack of discipline, however, gave Ireland another penalty, which Sexton converted to restore a six-point lead on the stroke of halftime.
Plisson had a chance to slot home another one but his angled attempt from 25 metres sailed wide.
France failed to make the most of the rare times they had the ball in the Irish half and the highly unimpressive Teddy Thomas was replaced on the right wing by Hugo Bonneval early in the second half.
Mike McCarthy was carried off on a stretcher after he appeared to be knocked out in a collision of heads with teammate Jack McGrath.
France travel to Wales on February 26 and Ireland go to England the following day.