Rugby World Cup 2011
France build RWC momentum
Aurelien Rougerie (AP Photo)
Dublin - France beat Ireland 26-22 for the second straight weekend in a Rugby World Cup warmup match at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The loss was Ireland's third straight this month, with a last chance to boost morale when England visits next weekend before both fly to New Zealand.
France coach Marc Lievremont's faith in 13 changes to the side which topped Ireland 19-12 in Bordeaux a week before was rewarded with an ever better performance against an Irish side which started and finished strong, but crucially sat back and bungled the middle quarters.
France had the game in hand after scoring 26 unanswered points from the 25th to 49th minutes to lead 26-8, and conceded two late converted tries after Ireland cleared its bench.
Center Aurelien Rougerie, playing his first test since breaking his ankle in May, shaded Ireland opposite and captain Brian O'Driscoll and set up a try for fullback Cedric Heymans, and Morgan Parra put pressure on incumbent Dimitri Yachvili with a solid performance behind the scrum and kicking tee.
Parra's three penalties, after earlier foregoing shots at goal to run at the Irish, helped France overcome scoring only two tries to Ireland's three.
Ireland made all the running in the first quarter, and produced a brilliant opening try. No. 8 Jamie Heaslip flicked on a lineout catch, flanker Jamie Heaslip busted through the French backline then prop Cian Healy muscled Parra out of the way to score in the left corner.
But when France climbed back to 8-6 down thanks to a brilliant drop goal from 45 meters by replacement flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, the momentum switched.
Rougerie cut inside O'Driscoll and fed a bursting Heymans, who made it 13-8 with the conversion. Parra penalties on either side of the break extended France to 19-8, then Trinh-Duc delivered the key score when he intercepted a wild pass from the sideline by Ireland scrumhalf Tomas O'Leary and ran in untouched. The converted try was a double blow for Ireland, as Healy hurt his leg in the scrum Ireland had just won and limped off the field.
In the last seven minutes, replacement Luke Fitzgerald set up a try for Jonathan Sexton, and O'Brien touched down in injury time. Ronan O'Gara converted both.
France 26 (Cedric Heymans, Francois Trinh-Duc tries; Morgan Parra 2 conversions, 3 penalties, Trinh-Duc drop goal), Ireland 22 (Cian Healy, Jonathan Sexton, Sean O'Brien tries; Ronan O'Gara 2 conversions, Sexton penalty). HT: 16-8.