Published Sunday, 04 March 2012
Tommy Bowe scoring a try for Ireland against France. (© PA)
Tommy Bowe scored two tries in the first half as the Irish raced to a commanding lead of seventeen points to six at the interval.
But a try from Wesley Fofana and a further three points from Morgan Parra levelled the scores in the second, and Les Blues stopped the visitors scoring again to result in a tense stalemate.
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell spoke of his frustration after seeing his team denied what would have been only their second win in Paris since 1972.
"It's disappointing for us, we played good rugby in the first half, we didn't match it in the second," said a deflated O'Connell after the match.
"It's disappointing, we had a great opportunity to win and we didn't take it. It's frustrating for us, you don't get many chances to win here.
"The scoreline as it was at half-time, for us not to win is very disappointing for the lads."
Ireland played like a team who had been left waiting to get their teeth into the French for the past three weeks, after the tie was postponed due to a frozen pitch at the Stade de France.
The visitors struck first when Bowe read a telegraphed pass from Aurelian Rougerie and sprinted over for the simplest of tries.
France got their first points on the board through Parra, and the out-halves exchanged further kicks before a moment of brilliance from Bowe lit up stadium and extended his team's lead.
Obviously we were very happy with the first half, to score two tries over here is very difficult, but to come away with just a draw, nobody enjoys a draw, we're just quite disappointed in there.
The Ospreys winger, who could be back with Ulster next season, chased down his own kick forward and collected the ball to score his second of the afternoon and send Ireland in 17-6 ahead at half time.
But the second half was ushered in by rain and after Parra landed his third penalty, Irish hearts sank when France touched down in the 50th minute through Fofana.
The centre initially profited from good fortune during a loose passage of play when the ball bounced into his arms and he outran Kearney to dive over in the left corner.
And with a shift in momentum clear, France brought the scores level when Parra rifled over a long-range penalty.
Then scrum-half Conor Murray was carried off on a stretcher due to an injury to his right knee - he was replaced by Eoin Reddan.
The match came to a tense but evenly contested finish with both sides aiming to land the final blow.
Ireland enjoyed a sustained spell in the opposition half but were unable to capitalise, while Lionel Beauxis sent an ugly drop goal under the crossbar and then saw a second charged down.
France, camped in an ominous position, conceded a penalty with two minutes on the clock, but then had one last throw of the dice only for Kearney to bundle Julien Malzieu into touch.
The outcome means Ireland's title aspirations are now effectively over - while the prospect of a Grand Slam decider between Wales and France on 17 March also came to an end.