Player ratings after Johnny Sexton absolutely bloody stuns France
FRANCE 12-15 IRELAND
Ireland looked dead, buried and forgotten until Johnny Sexton nailed a 47-metre drop goal in the 82nd minute after 41 phases of insane play.
It was all about penalties in the first half and most of them were going Ireland's way. Rob Kearney and Cian Healy got into dangerous positions inside the French 22 but both men were shut down and the visitors relied on the boot of Johnny Sexton.
Josh van der Flier was a knee injury casualty - as was Matthieu Jalibert - and Ireland were value for their 9-3 lead at the break.
It was more of the same as the second half saw Ireland stretch their lead, again, through Sexton. Maxime Machenaud cut Ireland's lead to 12-6 before Sexton missed a penalty of his own to the right of the posts [his bogey position].
France were not going away and Teddy Thomas blitzed them after they took a quick throw from the line and carved their guests up over on the right wing. That looked to be it until Sexton stepped up.
Here's how we rated Joe Schmidt's men in green.
Rob Kearney - 7
Needed Henshaw to stay out wide, rather than cut in, and he could have had an early try. Contested well, as per usual, in the air and slid back well to prevent a Jalbert try after a hack-on. Conceded a penalty 30 metres out after running flush into Guirado. Was walloped on countless times by the French but kept showing for it.
Keith Earls - 8
Looked lively and hurt the French on several carries. Fantastic tackle on Vakatawa to knock the ball loose. Some claim in the air during those 41 phases.
Robbie Henshaw - 8
Burst out of the line to make a big hit on Henry Chavancy that forced a turnover. Made gains on just about every carry - an inch here, a metre there.
Bundee Aki - 7
Linked up well with Stockdale for an early incision. Unfortunate to get pinged for a penalty when he was pinned into a ruck. Ended Jalibert's day early after a knee-on-knee collision. A willing runner but Ireland missing a creative spark in midfield.
Jacob Stockdale - 7
Good, strong carry, first up. Hammered Teddy Thomas about 10 yards, early on, after a fine kick-chase. Another hefty contact, soon after, won his side a turnover. Completely done by Thomas for the French try.
Johnny Sexton - 9
Two bonus points for THAT drop goal!!
Was following the script to kick A LOT in the opening exchanges and most of it was good. His one penalty miss looked like it might prov costly until he turned the French over only yards from his own tryline. Shelled a high ball to give the French a scrum outside Ireland's 22.
Conor Murray - 7
The French hounded the lad all night. Showed bravery to pounce on a loose ball, after a Sexton bomb, but was pinged for holding on.
Cian Healy - 7
Slipped on his first scrum but got a free pass from the match officials. Under serious pressure from Slimani but won his team a crucial scrum penalty on 28 minutes. Got turned over in the French 22 when he was dragged onto the French side of a ruck. Made two fierce carries after that as he finished the first half strong.
Rory Best - 7
Threw a tad long for an early lineout but was otherwise solid there and in the scrum.
Tadhg Furlong - 8
Some savage carries from the big man. Coughed up the ball within yards of the tryline, on 50 minutes. One hell of a carry to knock France way back into their 22 but Sexton missed his penalty attempt.
Iain Henderson - 8
Made one brute of a carry that drove two French players back on their arses. A monster at the breakdown. Won his side a penalty right in front of the sticks just after half-time. Massive reclaim from the 22 drop-out near the end.
James Ryan - 9
We knew this lad had potential and raw power. In Paris, we got the full package. Claimed his first lineout to tee up a nice set-play but could not hold onto his second. Made countless forceful tackles and was a talisman for his team out there.
— Virgin Media Television (@VirginMedia_TV) February 3, 2018
Peter O'Mahony - 6
A beacon in the Irish lineout and a nuisance for the French. Batted the ball forward when Sexton sprung a pass on him. I stand to be corrected but not one of his more dominant displays in a green jersey.
Josh van der Flier - 6
Ran each of his five pieces of possession and stuck every tackle he had to, but allowed Camara to evade him after sticking the initial hit. Badly injured his knee and did not make half-time.
CJ Stander - 7
Made a few dummy runs that drew in French defenders and left gaps. Turned over by Gourdon, far too easily, just before France got off the mark. Made a huge turnover, on Guirado, just after the hour mark.
Dan Leavy (for van der Flier '35) - 7.5
Came on at the tail-end of the first half. Made a number of strong carries and was physical as f**k.
Jack McGrath (for Healy '60) - 6
Sean Cronin (for Best '67) - 5
Devin Toner (for Ryan '67) - 6
Some man for clearing out beyond the ruck.
John Ryan (for Furlong '69) - 6
Up for the fight in the closing stages.
Fergus McFadden (for Stockdale '73) - 5