IRELAND were denied a rare victory over France when Frederic Michalak converted a late try by Louis Picamoles in an error-ridden but compelling game.
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Heaslip. Con: Jackson. Pens: Jackson 2; France: Try: Picamoles. Con: Michalak. Pens: Michalak, Parra
And deflated Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip was left to rue his side’s inability to hold off the France fightback in an attritional encounter in Dublin.
Ireland had forged into a 13-3 half-time lead on the back of a powerful forward display, with Heaslip getting their try and stand-off Paddy Jackson adding the conversion and two long-range penalties.
But Les Bleus hit back as Morgan Parra added a penalty to Frederic Michalak’s three-pointer, before outstanding No.8 Louis Picamoles barged over and Michalak converted to level the scores.
The result is unlikely to ease the pressure on Ireland coach Declan Kidney and Heaslip said: “It probably wasn’t the prettiest game to watch but I think the score reflected the game. There was not much between the teams but they came back strong in the last 20 minutes. It was a very tough game. Picamoles took his chance well at the end and did well despite our best efforts and we took our opportunities when they came.”
Heaslip also refused to criticise the decision not to award Ireland a potential match-winning penalty late on.
Wing Keith Earls was eased out of his chase for a try in the right-hand corner by France replacement Vincent Debaty. Australian referee Steve Walsh referred the decision to the video official, but no penalty was given.
Heaslip said: “From what I saw, Keith got bumped a bit but they went upstairs, the video referee called it as he did and you have to get on with it.”
There was also a massive blow for Ireland when it was confirmed that substitute scrum-half Eoin Reddan has been ruled out for three months after suffering a broken leg.
Reddan fell awkwardly beneath a tackle in the final minute and was administered oxygen before being carried off.
Ireland’s growing injury list was swelled even further by a number of other casualties with lock Donnacha Ryan damaging his shoulder and centre Luke Marshall sustaining concussion. Both are doubts to face Italy on Saturday, while flanker Peter O’Mahony, scrum-half Conor Murray, centre Brian O’Driscoll and wing Fergus McFadden also picked up knocks.
Already missing were lock Paul O’Connell, wings Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy, centre Gordon D’Arcy, flanker Stephen Ferris and stand-off Jonathan Sexton.
Kidney, however, refused to complain. He said: “We took a conscious decision that we wouldn’t complain about things. Other people are worse off than we are, plus it’s such an insult to the lads coming on and having a huge go.
“We’re frustrated, but there are lads coming in who have no experience at this level under their belts and are doing such a good job for us.
“On any given day Paul O’Connell, Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris and Jonathan Sexton would be in the running for a Lions spot.
“I’ve never experienced an injury run like this, but you work your way through and I spoke to [captain] Jamie Heaslip about it and we agreed not complain.”
The match had been viewed as a must-win for both teams to revive their dismal championships but it ended in the second successive draw between the rivals after last year’s showdown in Paris finished 17-17.
Paddy Jackson responded courageously to his painful debut against Scotland by landing two enormous penalties and converting Jamie Heaslip’s 11th-minute try.
In similar weather against England four weeks ago the Irish tactics were ill-judged, but yesterday they played with far greater intelligence.
The final quarter witnessed a reversal of fortunes, however, and they paid the price for failing to capitalise on a dominant spell shortly after half-time. Once again they will wonder how they allowed victory to slip from their grasp.
Ireland lost centres O’Driscoll and Marshall to injury in the 72nd minute and disaster struck for the hosts when Picamoles barged over with just seven minutes remaining and Michalak landed the challenging conversion to level the scores at 13-13.
Ireland: Kearney, McFadden, O’Driscoll, Marshall, Earls, Jackson, Murray, Heaslip (c), O’Brien, O’Mahony, Ryan, McCarthy, Ross, Best, Healy. Subs: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Archer, O’Callaghan, Henderson, Reddan, Madigan, Fitzgerald.
France: Huget, Clerc, Fritz, Fofana, Medard, Michalak, Parra, Picamoles, Dusautoir (c), Nyanga, Maestri, Samson, Mas, Kayser, Domingo. Subs: Guirado, Debaty, Ducalcon, Vahaamahina, Claassen, Machenaud, Trinh-Duc, Bastareaud.
Referee: S Walsh (Aus). Attendance: 51,000