DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland finally found some Six Nations form on Sunday by handing France a hammering that was flattered by the 26-14 scoreline to keep alive their remote chance of back-to-back titles ahead of next weekend’s finale of games.
After misfiring in an opening loss to England and getting stuttering wins over Italy and Scotland, the defending champions completely overwhelmed the French with tries from Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan opening up a 19-0 halftime lead.
The bonus point was secured just before the hour when Keith Earls’s 30th international try made him Ireland’s joint second highest try scorer and it would have also made for a record defeat at the hands of the Irish were it not for late tries from Yoann Huget and Camille Chat.
Ireland can upset Wales’s Grand Slam hopes and overtake the Six Nations leaders with a win in Cardiff next Saturday, but will need Scotland to beat England at Twickenham for the first time in 36 years to retain the championship.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Clare Fallon)