Ireland held on to beat France 22-20 to win the Six Nations and give a fairy tale ending to the career of Brian O’Driscoll in a gripping climax to the 2014 Championship.
Ireland send off Brian O’Driscoll in style with Six Nations title
In a compelling match at the Stade de France on Saturday night, France held a 13-12 half-time lead thanks to two Maxime Machenaud penalties and a conversion of Brice Dulin’s try, while Ireland scored two tries through Jonny Sexton and Andrew Trimble, the former missing two of his three kicks.
Sexton converted his second try early in the second period, followed by a penalty to make it 22-13, but France fired back through a Dimitri Szarzewski try after some sustained pressure, Machenaud converting to make it 22-20.
French replacement Jean-Marc Doussain missed a straightforward penalty attempt with 10 minutes to play and the Irish defence held out, despite a late disallowed Damien Chouly try, to secure only their second win over France in Paris in 42 years.
Fittingly, the last time they did was in 2000 when O’Driscoll scored a hat-trick of tries.
“The emotions are starting to kick in now,” O’Driscoll told the BBC. “It feels great to be a two-time Six Nations winner. So many seconds along the years and so many disappointments, it is great to finish my career on a high. When I do hang this jersey up on the hook inside it will be with fond memories.
“I am absolutely delighted. There is a huge Irish contingent here and I am glad we gave them something to shout about.”
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell said: “It is fantastic. We are delighted for Ireland and the people back home and also for Brian O’Driscoll and his family – for him to have a great finish to his career is great for everyone involved.”
Earlier, Owen Farrell accounted for 22 points and Mike Brown added two tries in Italy as England just missed out on overhauling Ireland’s point difference ahead of the game in Paris.
England eased to a convincing 52-11 win over Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, but they failed to capitalise on a tiring home side by racking up even more points. England finished with a points difference of 73 compared to Ireland’s 83 after the France clash, where the Irish win rendered the points difference irrelevant.
Despite just missing out on the title, Stuart Lancaster was pretty pleased with the performance.
“We scored some great tries and we’ve come here and scored 50, and not many teams have done that,” he said.
“There were some errors in the first half, but I’m just proud of the boys. It’s a great squad we’ve got developing and the bigger picture is important.”
Farrell’s points came courtesy of one try, one penalty and seven conversions.
Leonardo Sarto scored Italy’s only try late in the second half after Luciano Orquera converted two penalties early on.
Having lost all five of their matches in this year’s tournament, Italy took the wooden spoon.
“We started this tournament well and we finished negatively,” Italy coach Jacques Brunel said, referring to a narrow opening loss at Wales. “We’re behind in terms of what our goals were.”
Deposed champions Wales finished a frustrating Six Nations on a high as they thrashed a Scotland team reduced to 14 men for an hour by a record 51-3. Wales, seeking a seventh-successive victory over the Scots, were leading 10-3 after a Liam Williams try when Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg was red carded for a dangerous late charge on Dan Biggar in the 22nd minute.
Wales took full advantage with two tries each for George North and Jamie Roberts and one each for Toby Faletau and Rhodri Williams.
The win came at a price, with Wales captain Sam Warburton set to miss the rest of the European season and the tour of South Africa after a suspected dislocated shoulder.
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