IRELAND SECURED THE 2014 Six Nations with a thrilling victory over the French in Paris this evening.
Here’s how we felt Joe Schmidt’s men performed during their 22-20 win at the Stade de France.
Rob Kearney – 8
After losing his first aerial battle, superbly took a French garryowen in the 12th minute. Did well to keep the ball in play in the the 16th, while had another excellent catch just after Trimble’s try. Lost out to Huget for the tap-down to Dulin, but was scrambling to make up ground.
Fine clearing kick in a time of need with France attacking in the 45th minute and showed huge composure throughout, even after taking a thumping hit from Bastareaud in the second half. His late garryowen nearly cost Ireland but this was a quality performance.
Andrew Trimble – 9
As strong as ever under the French re-starts in the opening half, and popped up in midfield to carry on occasion. Ran a perfect trailing line from deep for his try to put himself exactly where Murray expected to find him.
Worked tirelessly on kick chase as he always does, and has developed into one of Ireland’s key players thanks to his sheer determination. An absolute rock for Joe Schmidt’s side.
Brian O’Driscoll – 9
His direct carry opened the door for Trimble’s try, getting Ireland over the gainline and providing quick ball. Powerful hit on Huget to start his defensive shift, and tackled well in some numbers-down situations. Poor pass to Trimble off his left hand in the 33rd minute, but then almost released Rob Kearney with a pop inside just phases later.
Almost got in for a try just before Sexton went over for his second, taking a nice line off Trimble despite receiving the pass too early. Constantly dealt with bigger men in contact. A classy performance to sign off in Ireland colours.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Gordon D’Arcy – 7
Missed a one-on-one tackle on Bastareaud to begin his game, then was bounced off by Fickou minutes later, allowing the French to build momentum. Made one good tackle on the former in the 28th minute, but struggled in contact at times against the heavy French tacklers.
Released his pass excellently in the build-up to Sexton’s second try, but then had a poor grubber kick after 53 minutes. Deserves credit for growing into his defensive shift against the explosive French centres.
Dave Kearney – 8
Made a scampering half-break from Sexton’s inside pass in the 11th minute and rounded Huget to show his pace later in the half. Competed in the air with intent, not always reclaiming the ball but always getting off the ground.
Like Trimble, he is all about work rate. Hit rucks with aggression, scampered back to cover French half-breaks and communicated with his fellow back three players superbly.
Jonny Sexton – 7
Took the ball to the gainline threateningly with Ireland’s first few possessions, slipping inside passes to trail runners and nudging grubber kicks down the left-hand side. Some of his tactical kicking was inaccurate though, while his place kicking in the first half was poor. Seems to have a mental issue when kicking from the right of the posts.
Chipped away attacking possession just after half time to allow France to counter. Took both of his tries well and had one particularly excellent clear-out as Heaslip got isolated in the 50th minute. His 52nd minute penalty was enjoyable to watch. Brave hit on Bastareaud in the 68th minute and looked to be knocked out in the process.
Conor Murray – 9
The attacking chief for Ireland for much of the game, providing clean service from the base of the ruck and also using his own power to carry. Set up Trimble superbly, timing his pass into that barely visible space to perfection.
No huge hits in defence, but his constant physicality helped Ireland to cope with the rapid French attack as other scrum-halves might not have. Perfect box kick in the 48th minute resulted in a Picamoles’ knock-on. Lovely snipe down the left in the 55th minute before hitting Dave Kearney.
Cian Healy – 8
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Had an early knock-on from a testing Sexton inside pass, but excelled against Nicolas Mas in the early scrum exchanges. Like Heaslip, he was a willing ball carrier but took his time to start bursting over the gainline.
Perhaps lucky to escape a yellow card during the phase play preceding Swarzewski’s try as he came over the top of a ruck dangerously. Replaced by McGrath after a heavy workload.
Rory Best – 8
As aggressive as ever at the breakdown, looking to get his hands on the ball or counter-ruck. Didn’t come up with steals, but that competition impeded the French. Made lots of the scrappy tackles around the fringes as is his habit.
Part of an Irish front row that largely did well against their French counterparts until that 70th minute penalty concession that almost allowed Doussain to give les Bleus the lead.
Mike Ross – 8
His major job is to scrummage and he did that wonderfully in the first half, winning penalties in the 11th and 39th minutes from the frustrated Thomas Domingo. Completed his tackles without winning too many collisions, but knocked on inside Ireland’s half in the 44th minute.
His efforts in helping the Irish scrum to thrive see him scoring high.
Devin Toner – 8
Had a relatively quiet first half by his own standards in this Six Nations, but did what was needed in terms of chipping in with carries and tackles. Technically, still looks awkward at times but his effectiveness is now beyond question.
His fitness has been inspirational too as he carried his hefty frame around for another full 80-minute shift.
Paul O’Connell – 8
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Consistently offered himself up to carry the ball and take some of France’s biggest hits, although slipped off a tackle on Picamoles in the opening exchanges.
Brilliant penalty turnover in the 43rd minute with France looking very threatening. As ever, his work rate was absolutely world-class and he did his best to challenge some of Steve Walsh’s refereeing. A genuinely brilliant leader.
Peter O’Mahony – 7
Needed a big play to get him into the game, but just couldn’t find it in the first half. Provided Ireland with an excellent option at the back of the line-out though and made some of the less notable tackles around the fringes.
Added a handful more carries before being replaced by Henderson, as well as finishing with a 100% tackle completion rate. Solid outing but didn’t quite hit the lofty standards he set for himself against Wales and Scotland.
Chris Henry – 9
Sublime flick out of the back of the hand for Sexton’s try after carrying strongly during the preceding phase play. Passed well from the back of the decoy mauls too, releasing Murray on his attacking arc. Conceded a penalty to allow France go 3-0 up early on, although he will have felt Walsh’s decision was harsh.
Bumped off by the powerful Bastareaud close to Ireland’s line with 20 minutes left, but instantly recovered his defensive bearings to get back to his feet. His development as an international player has been a real strength for Ireland this season.
Jamie Heaslip – 8
As busy as ever in getting around the pitch, but struggled to make yardage with many of his carries in the first 40 minutes, coming out second best against the likes of Picamples and Chouly.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Loose pass in the 44th minute put Ireland under real pressure, but grew into the second half and continued to take attacking responsibility. Important at the maul and played his part at the line-out too.
Sean Cronin – 6
Didn’t manage to get his hands on the ball to show his pace and power, but
Jack McGrath – 7
Carried close in to the ruck on one occasion and managed to get through six tackles.
Martin Moore – 7
Brilliantly powerful hit on Flanquart in the 75th minute, smashing the Stade Français lock backwards to strip France of momentum.
Iain Henderson – 7
Bounded around the pitch with energy, exactly what Ireland needed to finish out the game, even if his individual contributions were not decisive. Will have been disappointed to get turned over in the 78th minute. Huge man and ball tackle on Chouly in the last minute to save the lost scrum.
Jordi Murphy – not used
Eoin Reddan – 7
Like Henderson, his energy was as important as anything he did. Passed snappily and was clearly vocal in organising Ireland’s defence.
Ian Madigan – 7
Great touch-finder in the 74th minute and spent large parts of the closing stages covering deep for Ireland. Had one darting run in attack too, making a few valuable metres.
Fergus McFadden – 7
As ever, a willing and hard-working ball-carrier, putting the head down and scraping out yards late on.
We’re sure you disagree with some of the ratings above, so let us know how you would have marked the players and why…