Special envoy to Marseille
We wondered if 110 days had been enough for the Blues to “mourn”, to use the term used by coach Fabien Galthié. The answer came. Negative. Borrowed, slow, predictable, Grégory Alldritt and his teammates were copiously dominated by the Irish in this shock described as a “blockbuster opening night” by the Anglo-Saxon press. To concede the heaviest defeat in the history of the French XV against Ireland, 38 to 17. The hope of a Six Nations Tournament completed with a Grand Slam to alleviate the disillusionment of the World Cup flew right out of the gate. And the next few days promise to be tense, before the perilous trip to Scotland next week (Saturday at 3:15 p.m.).
Halftime is just seconds away. The Blues, reduced to 14 with the expulsion of Willemse, are in trouble. Faced with an Irish team that recites its game to perfection, neo-captain Alldritt and his partners continue to take the blows without returning them. Or too timidly. The Clover XV already leads 17 to 3 and the fear of a failed start to the Six Nations Tournament is growing. But the big arms in front, with the energy of despair, hit the green wall. Until Jalibert only had to serve Penaud high for his 36th try (two units from Serge Blanco's record). 10 to 17 at the time of the oranges, we can speak of a small miracle as the Blues were dominated. A semblance of hope quickly vanished. In the 46th minute, winger Nash increased the score (10-24). And if Gabrillagues is credited with a try after a very long video refereeing (17-24, 53rd), the Irish are careful to quickly calm the enthusiasm of the Blues and the public at the Vélodrome, who had finally found a little voice , by scoring, in force, a fourth try synonymous with a bonus by their hooker Sheehan (17-31, 62nd). His replacement, Kelleher, scored a fifth in the 77th minute to beat the record for points scored against the Blues: 38 against 32... last year.
They were also badly burned at the World Cup – they were also ejected in the quarter-final, by the All Blacks – the men in Clover did not seem weighed down by the weight of regrets. Nor by the absence of their playing master for so long (118 caps), the newly retired Jonathan Sexton. No great flights but impressive collective mastery for the winners of the 2023 Grand Slam. Multiplying long sequences of play, they were quick to crack a French defense at bay. In the 16th minute, Bundee Aki had fun in the middle of the Blues. Percussions, passes after contacts. The second opens the fatal breach. Ramos is caught, Penaud and too short and the Gibson-Park metronome will flatten for the first time. No French revolt, barely a revolt for a penalty scored by Ramos (27th, 3-10) and the green giants resume their undermining work. Playing time after playing time, they push the French defense to its limits. Who ends up breaking a second time. Gibson-Park serves his solid second-line Beirne high who rushes into a gaping gap. We've been playing for barely half an hour and Ireland leads 17-3 in a Vélodrome stadium which has lost its fervor. A dazed public, just as much as the Blues whose lost looks no longer mask the extent of their concern.
It must be said that they played part of this first period outnumbered. From the 8th minute, the English referee, Mr. Dickson, requests video refereeing for a clearance by Paul Willemse. In slow motion, we see his shoulder hit the head of pillar Porter roughly. Yellow card and return from the bunker, so contested during the World Cup, to inquire about a change in the color of the sanction. The cardboard will remain yellow. And the second line of Montpellier, authorized to return to the Marseille pitch. The warning will not serve as a lesson. In the 31st minute, Doris charges, Willemse tries to stop her by remaining straight as an I. His shoulder hits the Irish number 8's jaw again. Second yellow card, synonymous with red. The French XV will finish the match at 14 under the eyes of Willemse taking his head in his hands, aware of making the task of his partners even more complicated. And this even if the remaining seven forwards draw on their pride to dominate some closed scrums and other mauls.