Ireland remain mathematically in contention to retain their Six Nations title after a 26-14 four-try bonus point victory over France in Dublin on Sunday. Ireland’s tries came from Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Jack Conan and Keith Earls, as they dominated possession and territory. France grabbed two late tries, scored by Yoann Huget and Camille Chat. Nathaniel Cope was at the Aviva for RugbyPass and rated the performances of the Irish players.
15. Jordan Larmour 8
Rob Kearney was on the matchday programme, but a calf injury meant that Jordan Larmour was promoted from the bench. Saw the space to put in a brilliant kick in behind in the opening minute which France had to deal with, it earned Ireland an attacking lineout, a position from which Ireland would score their opening try. Failed to gather a crossfield kick in the 6th minute in competition with Damian Penaud, but he got a break of good fortune that the subsequent try was ruled out for a knock on by the Frenchman – however this aberration was noted by Joe Schmidt post-match. Electric with the ball in hand and a defender’s nightmare, illustrated by his jinking break in the 71st minute. Clocked up 77 metres in the game to be Ireland’s top ball-carrier.
14. Keith Earls 8
Opted to cut inside shortly after the half hour when it appeared he might have enough space on his right and a try scoring opportunity was missed. A nicely weighted kick in the 51st minute in behind the French defence which forced Antoine Dupont to ground the ball over his goal-line after being snaffled by Garry Ringrose. Five minutes later Earls got his try with a perfect line onto CJ Stander’s pass.
13. Garry Ringrose 9
The fit-again Ringrose replaced Chris Farrell and he offers the x-factor that the big ball-carrying Munster player lacks. His 33rd minute take from Johnny Sexton’s up-and-under, beating Thomas Ramos to the ball, was superb and he was desperately unlucky to lose control of the ball as he slid in for a try. A 44th minute tackle on Dupont forced a turnover due to a knock-on, it was at a crucial time with France having built a few phases, as they sought to respond positively at the start of the second half. Tracked and tackled the same player behind his goal-line to force an attacking scrum in the 51st minute. Looked threatening with the ball in hand too.
12. Bundee Aki 7
His usual hard-running self. His power saw him go just short of the try line late in the first half. His combination tackle with Sexton ended the half. Solid in the second half.
11. Jacob Stockdale 6
The 2018 Six Nations Player of the Championship after scoring 7 tries, he’s not hit those lofty heights, although he remains a potent threat, as illustrated by his try against Scotland and his opportunist one in Italy. Overcooked a kick in the 9th minute as he kicked ahead and did the same again in the 71st minute. Had the ball ripped off him in the 62nd minute. Not his best day
10. Jonathan Sexton 9
After his frustrations in Rome, which saw a towel bear the brunt, he was more akin to the 2018 version. Nailed a touchline conversion early on. Provided a nice switch offload in 12th minute to Keith Earls, to illustrate he was getting his mojo back. Scored his 10th international try on the 30-minute mark with his oft-used and hard to defend pass and loop run. Replaced just before the hour mark with the match won.
9. Conor Murray 6
Horrible box kick in the 8th minute that Stockdale did well to retrieve. Had an on-running scuffle with Guilhem Guirado in the opening half hour. His passing was a little better, but not at his optimum form yet.
1. Cian Healy 7
Strong scrummaging in the first two scrums against Demba Bamba. Showed good awareness as he tried to pounce in the 17th minute for a try, knocking on in the process. Made good break in the 19th minute, bursting through a few would-be tacklers.
2. Rory Best 8
Two and a half minutes into his final home Six Nations match and he dotted down for a try after a driving maul from a lineout. 22nd minute overthrow from attacking lineout five metres out, but overall the lineout fared far better compared to the Italy game. Had an excellent game in the loose.
3. Tadhg Furlong 7
Ireland had the upper hand at scrum time. Had a few bursts. Took a heavy knock from a second half restart but shook it off.
4. Iain Henderson 7
A ripped turnover in the 35th minute was his match highlight. Warned by the referee for throwing the ball away after a French penalty was awarded in the 49th minute, luckily Ireland didn’t concede 10 metres as a result, but petulance like that does teams no favours, particularly if it’s a tight contest.
5. James Ryan 8
Huge hit in the 17th minute on Dupont as the scrum half tried to clear behind his goal-line. His grunt was missed in Rome last time out, finished with 17 carries and 13 tackles on another busy day at the office for the Leinsterman.
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Watch: James Ryan speaks to RugbyPass after Ireland’s win
6. Peter O’Mahony 7
Snaffled Mathieu Bastareaud as he tried to get a bit of steam in the 43rd minute. Two turnovers, including one in the 50th minute in a ruck with France attacking on Ireland’s 22. A reliable go-to option in the lineout, taking all seven.
7. Josh van der Flier 5
Replaced in the 24th minute by Jack Conan after picking up an injury. Did nothing notable during his limited time on the pitch.
8. CJ Stander 8
Back after injury and offered a better ball carrying threat than Jordi Murphy or Jack Conan the previous two weeks. Switched to the flank following Van der Flier’s injury. Soft hands for the offload for Keith Earls’ try in the 56th minute. 18 carries for 32 metres and 15 tackles – a busy shift.
16. Niall Scannell 5
On just after the hour mark. Lost one against the head, while under pressure from French scrum which will disappoint. Lineout throwing still needs work.
17. Dave Kilcoyne 7
A 51st minute sub for Cian Healy. Gave French tighthead Dorian Aldegheri a horrible time during successive scrums, which eventually earned the French tighthead a yellow card. This performance might keep Jack McGrath out of the 23 for a while longer following this solid half hour.
20. Jack Conan 8
A first half sub for the injured Van der Flier and made the most of his opportunity. A try scorer in the 37th minute, barging through France captain Guirado and scrumhalf Dupont to score and make it 19-0. Ireland’s joint-top tackler with 15, an excellent days work.
22. Jack Carty 7
A second cap for the Connacht player. Having come on for Sexton he immediately found his range with a kick to touch. Another fine touch-finder in the 62nd minute to put France back deep into their 22. Looked assured with the ball in hand.
Watch: Warren Gatland admits Ireland were on Wales’ mind during Murrayfield second half
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