SIX NATIONS REPORT: England claimed the Six Nations title for a seventh time on Saturday after France failed to score enough points in their 35-27 win over Ireland in Paris.
Les Bleus notched up a bonus-point victory thanks to a fourth try from Virimi Vakatawa, but missed out on a first Championship title in a decade after not managing to claim a 31-point difference victory over the Irish.
Earlier in the day, Rugby World Cup runners-up England overcame Italy 34-5 in Rome, with scrumhalf Ben Youngs scoring twice in his 100th Test.
At the Stade de France, flyhalf Romain Ntamack scored 20 points as the hosts showed their ability with ball in hand, crossing on four occasions in scintillating fashion but ultimately falling short in their bid to lift the trophy.
Ireland went into the match needing a win in Paris by more than six points to claim a fifth tournament success.
France coach Fabien Galthie made one change from last weekend’s warm-up win over Wales as centre Arthur Vincent came in for the injured wing Teddy Thomas and Gael Fickou moved to the wing.
Prop Cian Healy made his 100th Test appearance for the visitors as Robbie Henshaw replaced Garry Ringrose, who suffered a broken jaw in last Saturday’s victory over Italy, in midfield.
The away side’s scrumhalf Conor Murray missed an early penalty from 55 metres out before Antoine Dupont opened the scoring, diving over after Fickou’s superb work on the touchline to beat a flat-footed Andrew Porter.
After the positive start, Anthony Bouthier was shown a yellow card for slapping a Johnny Sexton grubber kick into touch.
Andy Farrell’s men made the most of the one-man advantage as Healy scored from short range for his sixth international try and it was 7-7 after a quarter of the game with neither side claiming the ascendancy.
Sexton kicked a penalty goal five minutes later before Galthie’s outfit were awarded a penalty try after half an hour.
Flank Francois Cros grubbered through inside the opposition 22m and Caelan Doris tackled him without the ball before Sexton and Ntamack traded shots at goal.
Ireland controlled the closing moments of the half but failed to claim any points despite going through the phases for more than two minutes deep in les Bleus territory, eventually pinged for going off their feet at a ruck.
The impressive defensive display just before half-time gave France the momentum as Ntamack scored 11 unanswered points within the opening 12 minutes of the second 40 to stretch his side’s lead to 28-13.
The flyhalf claimed his fourth international try thanks to a superb break once again by Fickou and a marvellous offload from Dupont.
Henshaw cut the deficit to eight points with a quarter of an hour remaining before Sexton shook his head in frustration at being substituted.
It left France with 20 minutes to touch down for a fourth time and score a further 23 points.
The first objective was achieved with nine minutes to go as Ntamack caught his chip kick before passing to the supporting Vakatawa for a 35-20 lead as the game loosened up.
Hopes of a title win faded in the closing moments, however, with Ireland holding onto possession and Jacob Stockdale crossed after the 80 minutes for a consolation try.
Next up for both outfits is the newly created Nations Cup with Ireland welcoming Wales on November 13 and France hosting Fiji two days later.
Man of the match: Gregory Alldritt was a monster on defence for France. However, the award his shared between Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont. France’s halfbacks were sensational on attack and they both created and scored tries.
Moment of the match: There were two big moments. The first was Ireland failing to score just before half-time after being camped inside France’s 22. And the second was Romain Ntamack excellent try early in the second half.
Villain: No one.
Tries: Dupont, Penalty Try, Ntamack, Vakatawa
Cons: Ntamack 2
Pens: Ntamack 3
Tries: Healy, Henshaw, Stockdale
Cons: Sexton 2, R Byrne
Pens: Sexton 2
Yellow card: Anthony Bouthier (France, 10 – deliberately knocking the ball out of play); Caelan Doris (Ireland, 30 – tackling a player without the ball)
France: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Arthur Retitere, 23 Thomas Ramos.
Ireland: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Hugo Keenan, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Will Connors, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Chris Farrell.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Luke Pearce (England)
AFP & @rugby365com