PARIS (Reuters) – France produced brilliant rugby but fell short in the Six Nations as their 35-27 win over Ireland was not enough to push the English champions to first place on Saturday.
England won the title for the third time in five years after beating Italy 34-5 in Rome earlier, leaving the Blues with the seemingly insurmountable task of winning by at least 31 points to claim the crown.
Ireland needed a bonus point win or at least six points, and both sides failed at Stade de France.
England won the tournament, which started in February and was cut short in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a points difference to France after both teams finished with 18 points after winning four matches each.
Ireland came third, Scotland fourth, Wales fifth and Italy was at the bottom of the table.
France, who started their campaign by beating England, were more effective, scoring tries thanks to Antoine Dupont, a penalty, Virimi Vakatawa and Romain Ntamack, who also kicked the rest of the points.
Ireland took advantage of poor discipline from France in the first half and Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale scored their tries with the other points coming from Johnny Sexton’s boot plus a conversion from Ross Byrne.
“There were enough opportunities for us to win but we weren’t clinical enough. We have sometimes killed our own momentum. We spent some time in their 22 but we didn’t come back with the points, it’s that easy, really, ”Irish coach Andy Farrell said at a press conference.
France, who hadn’t finished second in the championship since 2011 and last won it in 2010, were lethal in the first half despite scant possession and coughing up eight penalties.
They were again inspired by scrum half Dupont, who formed an impressive trio with butterfly half Ntamack and Gael Fickou, who was moved to the left wing in the absence of injured Teddy Thomas.
“Our goal was to start winning games and winning titles. We have won five victories in six matches (in 2020) but have not won a title, although we are satisfied ”, said coach Fabien Galthie.
Dupont, 23, scored the first try for Les Bleus and set up Ntamack shortly after the restart in another towering performance.
Vakatawa scored the bonus point try but two Irish second half tries meant the hosts’ biggest advantage never exceeded 15 points.
Ireland were in the race in the first half thanks to poor discipline from France, but their obsession with a bonus points victory – instead of trying to fight their way to a six-point victory – meant that ‘they reached half-time with a four-point deficit. scored only one try.
France were more ruthless after the break although their focus dropped twice to give visitors the chance to leave Paris with an honorable defeat.