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France ends Six Nations losing streak in draw with Ireland

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Associated Press
3/9/2013 3:53:45 PM
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DUBLIN, Ireland -- Frederic Michalak converted a 74th-minute try by Louis Picamoles to earn France a 13-13 draw against Ireland on Saturday, ending the team's humiliating three-match losing run in the Six Nations.

A first tournament whitewash since 1957 remained on for the French when they went into halftime 13-3 down in treacherous conditions at Lansdowne Road after Jamie Heaslip's 10th-minute try and eight points from the boot of flyhalf Paddy Jackson.

However, the visitors improved in the second half and after Morgan Parra's penalty trimmed the deficit in the 53rd, No. 8 Picamoles capped a superb individual display by barging over from a quick tap penalty. The much-maligned Michalak added the extras from out wide to seal the comeback.

France stays bottom of the table but could avoid picking up the wooden spoon with a home win over Scotland next weekend.

That under-pressure kick redeemed Michalak after another flaky performance in wet and windy conditions to which his game is hardly suited.

Strangely deemed France's designated kicker despite the presence of the accurate Parra in the team, Michalak missed two of three attempts on goal in the first half before giving up the duties to the scrumhalf. And in the game's last act as France inched toward Ireland's line, he chose to send a grubber kick through rather than keep possession with the injury-ravaged hosts hanging on grimly.

The ball dribbled out of play and the Irish survived. Whether their coach, Declan Kidney, survives after this tournament remains to be seen.

After a strong start to the Six Nations when they beat Wales away, they have lost to England and Scotland and then tossed away a 10-point lead against a France side seemingly in disarray under Philippe Saint-Andre.

Even more sad for Irish fans was the sight of centre Brian O'Driscoll trudging off after the final whistle after what could turn out to be his last international appearance in Dublin. O'Driscoll was one of three Ireland players to be hurt late on, with midield partner Luke Marshall exiting in a daze while substitute flyhalf Ian Madigan was administered oxygen and then carried off after a tackler fell heavily on his leg.

With the rain lashing and the wind swirling, Ireland seized the initiative early on and Heaslip finished off a driving maul from a lineout for the first points of the game.

Jackson, bouncing back from a painful debut against Scotland two weeks ago, converted and then kicked long-range penalties in the 29th and 33rd minutes after Michalak had got France on the board.

Picamoles and captain Thierry Dusautoir led the French revival in the second half as Ireland lost its control and the No. 8 finally went over after the hosts had repelled a number of attacks in the final 20 minutes.

It was more like the France which started the tournament as favourite after winning all three of its autumn tests, including a 33-6 thrashing of Australia. But it is still not assured of avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon.

Brian O'Driscoll (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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