O'Connell deflated after French fightback
March 4, 2012
Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell attempts a charge-down © Getty Images
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell spoke of his frustration and disappointment after his side was denied a rare away victory over France by a second-half fightback.
Ireland had looked on course for only their second win in Paris since 1972 after establishing a 17-6 half-time lead on the back of two Tommy Bowe tries.
France battled back after the interval to salvage a 17-17 draw to leave O'Connell deflated. The outcome ended France's Grand Slam aspirations - Wales are now the only side who can obtain that prize - and effectively concluded Ireland's slim title hopes.
"There's certainly a big feeling of defeat and an opportunity lost," he said. "We scored an intercept try and one really good, well worked try. We then conceded a really soft, poor try and we're really disappointed with our second-half performance.
"I'm not sure what the penalty count was, I think it was 6-1 which makes it very difficult to compete. We're very frustrated and very disappointed."
Centre Wesley Fofana capitalised on a kind bounce before accelerating clear for France's try in the 51st minute, with the boot of Morgan Parra doing the rest.
"At half-time we said we must score first, which is what you say every time you lead away from home, but France are a very good side," O'Connell said. "They're World Cup finalists, they nearly won the World Cup so they were always going to come hard at us.
"Unfortunately they got the first score. Had we got the first score it would have been really good for us. To not score in the second half was very frustrating. To not tag on at least three points was our undoing."
Bowe's brilliant double gave Ireland hope of claiming their first win in Paris since 2000. The first was an intercept score from Aurelien Rougerie's lazy pass and the second a superb solo effort finished with a chip ahead and dummy of fullback Clement Poitrenaud.
"Tommy did very well," O'Connell added. "From a forward's point of view, when you look up and see an intercept try it's such a fillip, it's like points for free in some ways. It gives you a great lift.
"It was then a fantastic finish for the second try after some great work from Sean O'Brien and great hands from the backs. It was a lovely chip and great support from Rob Kearney. That's what Tommy's there to do and why he's rated as highly as he is in the world today."
Bowe echoed his skipper's sentiments and felt the 17-17 stalemate seemed more like a defeat than a draw. The Ospreys winger was also keen to look ahead to their next game, against Scotland next weekend.
"I'm delighted to score against France, tries against them aren't easy to come by so to get over twice in one day is very satisfying," he said. "Of course you would hope to get a victory out of it, but unfortunately we didn't. In the second half I barely touched the ball which is a huge disappointment. It's bitter-sweet.
"There's a real sense of disappointment in the changing room. We gave ourselves the best opportunity to win. At half-time we were delighted, really excited about the second-half, but it turned out to be very disappointing.
"We were very happy with the first-half but Declan Kidney has been talking to us all week about an 80-minute performance. In the second-half we were guilty of not doing that. We'll have to look at that second half and try and pick ourselves up because there's only a short turnaround before we play Scotland on Saturday."
Scrum-half Conor Murray was carried off on a stretcher with a suspected hyper-extended knee, with early indications suggesting he escaped ligament damage.
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