Last-gasp Sexton drop-goal stuns France

Jonathan Sexton spoiled Jacques Brunel's first game in charge of France with a last-gasp drop-goal as Ireland started their Six Nations campaign with a dramatic 15-13 victory in Paris.

A magnificent solo try from Teddy Thomas nine minutes from time looked to have given new head coach Brunel a winning start to his tenure as the rain fell at the Stade de France.

There was a distinct lack of French flair until wing Thomas produced a moment of sheer brilliance to score the only try of an attritional contest, Anthony Belleau converting to put Les Bleus in charge for the first time.

Four penalties out of five from Sexton had seen Joe Schmidt's men lead for much of the match and the fly-half held his nerve to nail a magnificent drop-goal under pressure with the last kick of the game to break France hearts.

Maxime Machenaud kept Les Bleus in touch with a penalty in each half, but Anthony Belleau missed a chance to put them 16-12 up before Sexton gave Ireland an eighth consecutive win - and just a fourth win over France in Paris in half a century.

France's 19-year-old fly-half Matthieu Jalibert endured a debut to forget, staying off the field after being given a head injury assessment following a tackle with Bundee Aki that appeared to damage his knee.

Ireland started with vigour and Sexton slotted over an early penalty to put them in front after France strayed offside.

Les Bleus were not lacking endeavour, but struggled to cause problems for a well-drilled Ireland side and more indiscipline enabled Sexton to double their lead from the tee.

Jalibert grimaced as he limped off and was surprisingly taken down the tunnel for a head injury assessment after appearing to hurt his knee when he brought down Six Nations debutant Aki. 

Roars reverberated around the stadium when Machenaud was on target with an excellent penalty, reward for good work in the ruck from Jefferson Poirot but Sexton made it 9-3 at the break after Ireland lost Josh van der Flier to a knee injury.

Sebastien Vahaamahina gifted Sexton the chance to give Ireland a nine-point lead when he was offside early in the second half as rain fell in the capital.

Ireland continued to dominate possession, but Machenaud reduced the deficit with his second penalty before Sexton dragged a shot at goal wide.

France were looking short of ideas until Thomas conjured up something special, showing a rapid turn of foot to race away down the right flank and dart inside to go under the posts.

Belleau added the extras to give France a slender advantage, but failed to land a penalty and that proved to be costly, Sexton staying calm to steady himself and launch a superb kick through the posts from around 40 metres out with the clock in the red following phase after phase of Ireland pressure.

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