Ireland 13 France 13: Frederic Michalak secures a draw in Dublin
Ireland 13 France 13: Frederic Michalak's nerveless late conversion earns his side a draw at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin
Frederic Michalak’s nerveless late conversion saw France secure a 13-13 draw with Ireland – the second year in a row these sides have tied in the Six Nations.
Leading 13-6 going into the closing stages, France’s No8 Louis Picamoles took a quick penalty and forced his way over for a try before Michalak was on target with the conversion on 74 minutes.
Ireland, who lead at half-time 13-3 thanks to captain Jamie Heaslip’s try and eight points from fly-half Paddy Jackson, could not trouble the scorers in the second half and remain with just one win in this year’s competition
France, on the other hand, stopped the rot and have their first point of the competition, but their winless run in the Six Nations now stands at seven.
Ireland set about executing their game plan from the off and even from the outset, they pinned France back in their own half.
Conor Murray’s box kicks were a feature of the match and that gave Ireland the territory and forced the French to concede penalties as the half wore on.
Michalak demonstrated early on that the Irish defence could not afford to relax however, his chip to the left appeared to release Maxime Medard but the bounce beat the flying winger.
But on ten minutes, a superb kick through the French defence from Brian O’Driscoll left France full-back Yoann Huget with no option but to kick the ball into touch just a few metres from his try-line.
Ireland, dominant at the lineout, had just displayed their mauling credentials and they performed both expertly as captain Heaslip barged his way over to open the scoring.
Jackson, who was on target with just one kick from four on his senior debut against Scotland last time out, made no mistake with the conversion.
On 16 minutes, France did earn themselves the chance to respond after Ireland were penalised at the scrum but Michalak pushed his kick wide.
As the first half wore on, Ireland’s long kicking continued to be a feature of the game, Rob Kearney’s trusty left boot keeping France on the back foot.
Jackson then missed from the tee when France came over the top on 23 minutes and France got themselves off the mark on 27 when again Cian Healy was called up by referee Steve Walsh at the scrum.
Ireland continued to kick for territory and they won another penalty soon after when France brought down a maul, this time Jackson making no mistake from the right.
And just two minutes later, the 21-year-old Ulster fly-half again bisected the posts from a similar position to give his side a 13-3 lead.
France were presented with the chance to bring themselves to within a score of their opponents on the stroke of half-time when Ireland were offside but Michalak was wayward with his penalty effort.
After the break, Ireland then found themselves on the receiving end of a penalty following a scrum but Jackson did not quite have the distance from the tee.
As the rain continued to lash down, mistakes kept on coming but Ireland were able to string some phases together in the French 22, only to run down a blind alley before Kearney fluffed his lines with a drop goal attempt.
On 54 minutes, France brought themselves back into the match when scrum-half Morgan Parra took over the kicking duties and nailed his first effort from 40 metres on the angle.
Just a few minutes later Parra had another effort but it was missed by a distance, ensuring Ireland who could not quite pin France back as much as they had done in the first half, still led by seven.
Whereas France’s replacements appeared to hinder them against England, this time around they had the desired effect and Mathieu Bastareaud made a considerable impact from the bench.
With ten minutes remaining France went through numerous phases – and Huget might have spotted the overlap on the right rather than going himself – before Bastareaud bulldozed his way towards the line.
But some fine defence from Ireland, who lost centre Luke Marshall to injury, saw France concede the penalty and the hosts withstand the pressure.
O’Driscoll, in what may be his last appearance for Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, also made his exit as a result of injury as Ireland were left clinging on in the closing stages.
And France finally found their way through when Picamoles took a quick penalty and barged his way over before Michalak, retaking kicking duties, notched the conversion.
That prompted O’Driscoll to re-enter the fray and Ireland stepped back onto the front foot and a kick to the corner was chased down by Earls, only for Picamoles, who also had Vincent Debaty aiding his cause, to get their first and avert the danger.
Ireland replacement Ian Madigan was then carried off with a serious leg injury as Ireland’s depleted ranks searched in vain for the winning score, ensuring the hosts remain without a win in three.