15. Rob Kearney – 9.5
As near to perfect as anyone can ever be. His tackling was immaculate, he kicked the ball accurately and with length, or with perfect precision for his kick and chases, he broke the line with silky ease and I believe he could catch a ping pong ball dropped from a helicopter in a force 9 gale. I have never seen a better player under the high ball. Deserved to be on the winning side. My MOTM
14. Tommy Bowe – 9
His speed up to the French backs in defence created the first try (along with the ‘cadeaux’ from Rougerie) and almost created two more interception tries in a crazy first half. You could argue he should have passed for Kearney for the second, but ultimately, he scored, so it’s hard to criticise. 5 tries in 3 games for Ireland’s finisher, a great all round game
13. Keith Earls – 7
Did well, particularly in defence and in the first half, though in the second half what bits he did always seemed to be at fingertips and he didn’t really give his side the forward momentum they required. Finally growing into the centre position?
12. Gordon D’Arcy – 6
Solid enough without ever providing any focal point for attack. I docked him, harshly maybe, 1 whole point for the brainless knock-on at 17-17 when O’Gara was sniffing glory
11. Andrew Trimble – 6
Did reasonably in defence but on two or three occasions he hared up chasing kicks and was completely sidestepped by Poitrenaud and others. Pretty anonymous again in attack.
10. Jonathan Sexton – 7
Did a lot of great work at the breakdown and in defence, and while he kicked reasonably, he will regret the awful early shank which could have ended up being the difference between the sides
9. Conor Murray – 6
Much better than last week (could he have been any worse?). He kicked better, he defended well, but, and it is a big but, he still looks one paced when trying to break and his pass takes more winding than an 18th century clock. Looked to get a nasty injury and fingers crossed he will be back before long
1. Cian Healy – 8
Showed well both in the scrum and in the loose. He carried the ball forward, did some uncompromising clearing out at the ruck, and generally hunted hungrily for work throughout the game
2. Rory Best – 6
Since the BBC showed footage of him preparing for the games with his secret line-out training barn at home, his line-out work has been very approximative. He missed O’Connell on a few big occasions today and gave away what could have been a costly late penalty for hands in the ruck. Counter that by a better showing in the loose, but still no more than 6
3. Mike Ross – 7
Up against a form scrummager in Poux, and while he did well to keep him relatively quiet, he was pretty anonymous versus previous weeks
4. Donnacha O’Callaghan – 6
Nothing special again, but nothing disastrous either. I get the feeling that there really is very little left in the tank.
5. Paul O’Connell – 6
Led the side well, but his line-out work lacked consistency and he wasn’t as dominant as in previous weeks. The burden of carrying his second row colleague starting to show?
6. Stephen Ferris – 8
Again showed as the best of the much vaunted Irish back row. Tackled well, carried well, supported well. Basically just in tremendous form.
7. Sean O’Brien – 7
Better. Seemed to be much more present, and maybe spent a little less time at the bottom of the ruck. Not happy to be substituted, but he is suffering as Ferris is performing to World Class in his favoured 6 shirt
8. Jamie Heaslip – 6
Another underwhelming performance from Heaslip. He seems to have lost that little bit of impetus which he always provided. Maybe time for a break?
All 7 were used, with varying degrees of success and impact. Reddan once more replaced Murray, this time through injury, and instantly sped up the play from the base of the breakdown and added zip when he had the ball in hand. O’Gara and McFadden both had very little impact, surprisingly in the case of O’Gara as the odds must have been on him dropping a late goal . Ryan and O’Mahony both added something when they came on, but Court and Cronin had way too little time to have even a slight impact.
by Mark Bonsall