Video: Ireland draw little comfort
France produce final quarter fightback to deny Declan Kidney’s team
Ireland's Paddy Jackson kicks a penalty
Jamie Heaslip of Ireland scores Ireland’s try in the first half. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Date: 9 March, 2013
Venue: Aviva Stadium
The final whistle was greeted by an anguished groan that emanated from the bowels of a saturated Aviva stadium. It was a deeply unsatisfactory result when parsed from the perspective of the participants. Ireland looked like they were going to win for three quarters of the match and in a torrid final quarter were grateful that they didn't lose.
It was the second year in succession that the protagonists could not be separated following a 17-17 draw in the Stade de France last year. There's no doubting the honesty of effort but Ireland's shortcomings were exposed in a brutal end game. The cavalry arrived too late to make a difference.
Conditions were very difficult; a sodden surface, a swirling wind and incessant rain on a bitterly cold Dublin evening placed a huge premium on precision and accuracy. The French and Irish patterns were compromised by the elements in a game of massive collisions and an attrition rate that almost scuppered the home side.
In those dying moments they lost Eoin Reddan to a nasty looking leg injury, departing on the occasion of his 50th cap on a stretcher. Luke Marshall's bravery saw him escorted from the pitch sporting an expression that suggested he wasn't quite sure of his environment. Brian O'Driscoll departed but in typical fashion returned to man the thin green barricade.
In his absence, outstanding French number eight Louis Picamoles did exactly what his Irish counterpart Jamie Heaslip managed in the first half, to find a few millimetres under a screed of bodies to burrow his way over. The much maligned Freddie Michalak - he had been replaced as place-kicker by Morgan Parra who managed one from two attempts - kicked a conversion that most French supporters might have missed as they averted their eyes.
Michalak polarises opinion and for the majority of those who questioned how he was handed the starting jersey, they were given plenty of ammunition during the 80 minutes; he was flaky in most aspects of the game and it was difficult to escape the feeling that if Francois Trinh Duc had been the pivot then the home side would have been in a deal more trouble.
Ireland supporters were incensed when French replacement prop Vincent Debaty nudged Keith Earls with an elbow as they were locked in a three-way footrace won by Picamoles. There was contact but the television match official ruled that it was insufficient or innocuous enough not to be penalised; it was hard to disagree on the evidence of a couple of re-runs.
Ireland's injury ravaged season continued but the bravery with which the players threw themselves into collisions against physically bigger opponents was staggering to witness. In those final 20 minutes bodies were festooned across the pitch but there was no diminution in courage or commitment.