Another slow start for Ireland but in the end, the French were steamrolled. Ireland slipped 6-0 down and were spared further pain by the TMO spotting a subtle French knock on in the build up to a disqualified try. From there, Sexton provided a spark and dominated: a Conor Murray try and some trademark Sexton kicking securing a 19-9 victory that keeps the Six Nations interesting.
Here are the Irish player ratings.
Rob Kearney - 5.5
Lasted fifty minutes before making way through injury. Was extremely quiet: ball-carrying ineffective, and guilty of a badly missed tackle on Serrin in the first-half. Starting position is under threat.
Keith Earls - 7
No Irish player loiters with greater intent. Earls has nailed down a place in this Irish side through consistently solid defence along with offering a constant threat off the right wing, although he struggled to get involved this afternoon.
Robbie Henshaw - 7.5
If Joe Schmidt were to find El Dorado, he'd choose Henshaw to rig the doors with explosives and blow them open. Henshaw did his job off the scrum to help force Ireland over for the opening try, and continued to bash through the middle afterward, showing healthy contempt for the gain line. Uncharacteristically sloppy on the ground at times in the first-half, which he improved on greatly in the second-half.
Garry Ringrose - 8
Bar possibly Jamie Heaslip, Ringrose was Ireland's best player in the first half. Sensational ruck clear-out on the first try ended a move that he began with a sumptuous offload to Sexton on the wrap around. Defensively superb, too. That rocky start at Murrayfield now a distant memory.
Simon Zebo - 6
A very mixed bag. His basic error in giving France a 5-metre scrum over an Irish line-out would have led to the first French try, had the TMO not spotted Fickou's subtle knock forward. Saved Ireland with sensational line-speed and tackle on Huget early in the second-half, as French numbers out wide threatened to make a mockery of Ireland's narrow defence. Moved to full-back following Kearney's withdrawal, where he offered a far more potent attacking threat than the incumbent, offset by one very poor clearance kick and some chaotic defending.
Johnny Sexton - 8.5
Sexton is the lubricant that allows Ireland's back play to fire, and he showed no signs of rustiness earlier on, barrelling straight into contact in midfield. His wrap-arounds are always delightful and frequently devastating: his link-up play with Henshaw and most notably Ringrose critical to slicing through the French in the first-half. Rifled a superb drop goal in the second-half, while his kicking off the tee was fleeting but flawless. He trained his Garryowen crosshairs on Scott Spedding as the rain sluiced down in the second-half: the out-half targeted him frequently; the team did not exploit him ruthlessly. He gilded 68 minutes of action, before making way showing no sign of injury.
Conor Murray - 8
After a slow start, in which he was outshone by opposite number Baptiste Serrin, Murray exploded into life: touching down his tenth international try before an electric break with the clock in the red narrowly failed to conjure a late first-half try. Along with Sexton, snatched control for much of the second-half: his kicking in behind would have had Ronan O'Gara applauding in the RTE studio. As Ireland ceded that control, Murray was on hand to make a number of critical tackles. Ain't no doubt about who will be wearing nine for the Lions.
Jack McGrath - 6
Up and down game. Intervention with Nigel Owens about the scrum seemed to stick in the ref’s head and helped contribute to Ireland’s first try.
Jack McGrath (to Nigel Owens): "I don't want to go down, I'm staying up, (Slimani) is pushing me down. Just sayin'"
— Gavin Cummiskey (@Cumoski) February 25, 2017
Conceded two penalties in the first half.
Rory Best - 7.5
Ireland’s lineout was dodgy as hell in that dire opening 20 but grew into the springboard for the Ireland attack. Best was 17 out of 17 with his darts. Strategy of kicking for the corner in the first half seemed like it might prove costly
Tadhg Furlong - 7.5
Sscrum dominance helped shift the momentum back into Ireland direction after a horrendous opening quarter. Shipped a serious knock early on but lapped up the physical stuff
Devin Toner - 6
Irish lineout was ropey during the first twenty minutes, but Toner had 5 takes in the first half. He’s not as beefy as his French counterparts but he presents genuine danger in the air. Dumb 73rd minute penalty made the final minutes more stressful than needed
Donnacha Ryan - 6.5
Imperious in the anthems but his singing might have been his most memorable contribution to the game before he caught that incredible behind the back offload from Zebo. What might have been.
CJ Stander - 7.5
Unlike the Italian game, Stander was contained but that was always going to happen. Still, Stander was Ireland’s top carrying forward, with 34 metres made, in a brittle battle. Badly failed his brief audition to be Ireland’s outhalf.
— Mathieu Norry (@Mathieunorry) February 25, 2017
Sean O’Brien - 7
France dominated the breakdown early and O’Brien was neutralised with the ball in hand. Physical as ever though.
— Darren Carson (@DazCarson68) February 25, 2017
Sean O'Brien "in where it hurts" #IREvFRA
— Alan Moore (@DangerKidsBooks) February 25, 2017
Jamie Heaslip - 8
The standout performer in Ireland’s dismal first quarter. Produced a performance that lived up the hype lavished on him by the French team in the build-up to the game.
Healy (60” for McGrath) - 7
Game lost its shape for most of the fourth quarter but Healy was there at the breakdown when Ireland won the decisive 75th minute penalty that put the game out of reach.
Iain Henderson (60” for Ryan) - 6.5
Looked eager to win his starting place back. Scrappy contribution but lacking a bit of polish. Introduced himself to Louis Picamoles with a savage tackle in the 74th minute.
Niall Scannell (68” on for Best) - 7
Settling nicely into the green shirt. 6 out of 6 from the lineout.
Peter O’Mahony (68” on for O’Brien HIA) - 8
The game was essentially won when O’Mahony was introduced but O’Mahony was a totemic, inspirational figure regardless. Surely he must start?
John Ryan (73” on for Furlong) - 6.5
Quiet cameo in a game already won.
Andrew Trimble (for Kearney, 50') - 6.5
Solid as ever: some good covering in behind late on.
Paddy Jackson (for Sexton, 68') - 7
Very much second choice, but he kicked the penalty which sealed victory four minutes from time.