SIX NATIONS RUGBY: Ireland defeat France to keep title hopes on course

Ireland's Johnny Sexton
 against France

Ireland's Johnny Sexton against France

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IRELAND 19 FRANCE 9

Ireland kept their Six Nations Championsihp hopes on course with a dogged win over the French in Dubln on Saturday evening.

Frances Ga�l Fickou offloads as he is tackled by Rory Best of Ireland

Frances Ga�l Fickou offloads as he is tackled by Rory Best of Ireland

Joe Schmidt’s side are now top of the standings, a point ahead of Scotland and two points ahead of unbeaten England who are playing Italy on Sunday afternoon.

It means a win over Wales in Cardiff in two week’s time, Ireland will return to Dublin on March 18 for a Championsihp decider against the defending champions England.

Ireland worked hard for their win against Les Bleus and on the balance of play, deserved thier victory.

The French drew first blook after a furiously fast opening 10 minutes.

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Ireland's Conor Murray scores a try
 against France

= Ireland's Conor Murray scores a try against France

Scrumhalf Serin Baptiste made Jamie Healsip and Rob Kearney look like amateurs with two dummies before Heaslip recovered to pull him down 15m from the line. But in doing so he was penalised and outhalf Camille Lopez goaled the first points on 12 minutes.

That lead was double six minutes later - although Ireland were probably happy to take that after a Frnech try was disallowed on TMO recommendation for Remi Lamerat after winger Yoann Huget had knocked o0n.

The play had come on a penalty advantage, it was brought back for the Irish infringment and Lopez goaled.

Ireland eventually came into the game and from from a scrum man of the match Conor Murray managed to force his way over for the game;s opening try. Sexton converted for a 7-6 lead.

The Irish had a golden chance at the end of the half to increase thier advantage further, but were unable to press it home and the one point difference remained at half time.

Two penalties and a superb drop goal from Sexton had Ireland 10 points clear, 16-6, after 53 minutes.

The Irish then bombard the French line with phase after phase but as they inched closer to a potential try the ball was lost.

French fullback Scott Spedding then charged out from his in-goal area and made his way into the Irish half before being halted.

It was a hetic period, the French lost the ball, Ireland stole it back and Simon Zebo fumbled before on the next French attack the ball went forward.

The French tails were up now and Ireland had to be sharp. Lopez kicked a penalty eight minutes from the end to bring the French into losing bonus point territory.

Paddy Jackson replaced Sexton on 73 minutes and two minutes later kicked a penalty - his 13th successful kick from 14 attempts in the current campaign - and that made the game safe for the Irish.