Irish crowned champions in Paris after thrilling finale

David Cooper - Writer 10:32 16/03/2014
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Jonny be good: Sexton dives over to score his first try of the night.

Johnny Sexton’s two tries helped Brian O’Driscoll complete the fairytale ending to his international career as Ireland claimed the Six Nations title by edging out France 22-20 in Paris.

Sexton ran in two tries, missed five points with the boot and was knocked out cold trying to tackle wrecking ball centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

Ireland rebuffed a late French onslaught to claim their first Six Nations title since 2009 and just a second win in 42 years in Paris, with wing Andrew Trimble also on the scoresheet.

O’Driscoll capped his 141st and final international appearance with just a second career Six Nations title, the storybook ending so craved by the Irish nation.

After 15 glittering years on the world stage, the Leinster stalwart and Ireland icon can finally hang up his international boots a happy man.

Ireland were forced to weather a hefty first-quarter storm, France blasting out firing after criticism of scrum and line-out deficiencies.

Maxime Machenaud slotted two penalty goals to nudge France into the early lead, Bastareaud blasting through the visiting backline onthree occasions.

But Chris Henry’s cute offload outfoxed the home defence after smart build-up play, and Sexton caught sight of the halfgap to cut back inside and over the whitewash.

The former Leinster playmaker scuffed the conversion though, a straightforward effort he should have buried. Ireland quickly doubled their try count though as Conor Murray blasted through a gap and sent Trimble under the sticks.

Momentum switched again though as Remi Tales chipped to the wing, Yoann Huget tapped inside at full leap and Brice Dulin had the easy run home. Machenaud’s conversion wrestled France a 13-12 lead.

Ireland pressed again after another penalty line-out, but Sexton missed his second shot at goal of the night. The fly-half quickly scotched the five missed points by racing in for his second and his side’s third try of the night.

In one blitzkrieg swoop, suddenly Ireland were once again sure of themselves. The visitors bullied France with their textbook maul, winning a penalty for Sexton to shoot at goal.

This time there was to be no mistake, the 28-year-old firing home with assurance renewed thanks to try number two, to put Ireland 22- 13 to the good.

But back came France as Bastareaud thundered into midfield, Louis Picamoles drove to the righthand post, and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski bundled in.

Machenaud landed the conversion, to cut Ireland’s lead to just two points. Jean-Marc Doussain then had the chance to steal the lead from the tee, but could only shoot wide.

And Damien Chouly thought he had stolen the game when he nipped into the right corner, but Vincent Debaty’s pass was rightly ruled forward.

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