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Six Nations 2024: France 17-38 Ireland - Irish claim bonus-point win over 14-man hosts in Marseille

Guinness Six Nations: France v Ireland

France:(10) 17

Tries: Penaud, Gabrillagues Pens: Ramos; Cons: Ramos 2

Ireland:(17) 38

Tries: Gibson-Park, Beirne, Nash, Sheehan, Kelleher Pens: Crowley Cons: Crowley 5

Ireland began their Six Nations title defence in momentous fashion as they claimed their biggest ever away win over 14-man France in Marseille.

Irish tries by Jamison Gibson-Park and Tadhg Beirne combined with France's Paul Willemse's sending off had Ireland in a strong position after 30 minutes.

Damian Penaud's try breathed new life into France just before half-time.

But despite captain Peter O'Mahony's yellow card, Ireland overcame their hosts to record a statement win.

Having controlled the majority of the first half before Penaud's try, Ireland stretched their lead to 14 points thanks to Calvin Nash's try.

But France, the pre-tournament favourites, hit back with a Paul Gabrillagues try, with O'Mahony sin-binned for bringing down the French maul.

But after Dan Sheehan sealed the Irish bonus point, the visitors regained control before Ronan Kelleher's late try capped a famous night for the men in green.

For Ireland, a triumphant night in Marseille will provide the perfect tonic to banish any lingering hurt from their World Cup disappointment as they kicked off the post-Johnny Sexton era with their first away win over France since 2018.

But for France, who are without talismanic captain Antoine Dupont as he chases his Olympic dream with the country's Sevens team, this will be a bitter pill to swallow and a big blow to their hopes of reclaiming the Six Nations title.

Crowley impresses as Ireland's new fly-half

As the new Irish playmaker-in-chief, replacing a legendary figure in Sexton, Crowley found himself in the spotlight during what was his first Six Nations start.

And while he had the odd wobble, notably missing a fairly straightforward penalty in the first half, the 24-year-old rose to the occasion admirably here, kicking 13 points to drive his Test career forward.

While Bundee Aki was central to manufacturing Gibson-Park's opening try, Crowley showed wonderfully deft hands as he fed Beirne for the lock to extend the Irish advantage.

It went from bad to worse for an increasingly angst-ridden France as they lost second row Willemse immediately after Beirne's try.

Having already spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a high tackle on Ireland prop Andrew Porter, Willemse was sent off after his shoulder crashed into Caelan Doris' head.

Willemse, who missed the World Cup through injury, looked unsurprisingly devastated at his dismissal but France were not in the mood to feel sorry for themselves, bursting into life despite their numerical disadvantage.

And while the first French surge towards the Irish line ended in a crunching Hugo Keenan tackle on Penaud, the free-scoring Bordeaux wing would not be denied and flew over the line a minute later to reignite his side's hopes of an opening-night victory.

Willemse is sent off by Karl Dickson
Paul Willemse was sent off in the first half following his hit on Caelan Doris

After France full-back Thomas Ramos missed an early second-half penalty, Munster wing Nash crossed to mark his Six Nations debut in style.

France refused to lie down, however, and as O'Mahony was yellow carded for his part in trying to prevent Gabrillagues' try, it looked as though the home side could reel the Irish in.

But having stared down their toughest period of the night, Ireland found a second wind and again pulled 14 points clear when Sheehan finished a wonderfully-worked attack that started with his own line-out for the bonus point.

With depleted France already visibly wilting in the closing stages, Ireland finished them off as replacement hooker Kelleher crashed over before Joe McCarthy was named player of the match after an all-action Six Nations debut in the Irish second row.

From there, The Fields of Athenry could be heard from the stands in the Velodrome as the Irish toasted a famous win and the perfect start to their Six Nations defence.

For Dupont-less France, however, the pressure only grows after last year's ill-fated home World Cup campaign.

Line-ups

France: T Ramos; D Penaud, G Fickou, J Danty, Y Moefana; M Jalibert, M Lucu; C Baille, P Mauvaka, U Atonio; P Gabrillagues, P Willemse; F Cros, C Ollivon, G Alldritt (capt).

Replacements: J Marchand, R Wardi, D Aldegheri, P Tuilagi, C Woki, P Boudehent, N Le Garrec, L Bielle-Biarrey.

Sin-bin:Willemse (9)

Sent off: Willemse (32)

Ireland: H Keenan; C Nash, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Lowe; J Crowley, J Gibson-Park; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; J McCarthy, T Beirne; P O'Mahony (capt), J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher, C Healy, F Bealham, J Ryan, R Baird, J Conan, C Murray, C Frawley.

Sin-bin: O'Mahony (53)

Referee: Karl Dickson (Eng)

Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (Eng) & Jordan Way (Aus)

Television match official: Ben Whitehouse (Wal)