Gutsy Jonathan Sexton, 29, who had been out of the game for 12 weeks following repeated concussions, displayed an impressive comeback by kicking hard for Ireland to secure their victory over France, and maintain unbeaten defence of the Six Nations title. 'Man-of-the-match', Sexton scored five penalties, four of which were in the first half. The Racing Metro fly-half was also twice left blooded during the match, as he crushed with the giant France's centre Mathieu Bastareaud and both players had to be led from the field in the second half. The Irishman's dedication was overwhelming, as he returned to the match ten minutes later with a few stitches.

He managed to keep his composure to kick and score his fifth penalty.

It had been a stop-start first half; however, it appeared that Ireland kept a stronghold and Sexton retained his focus to deliver perfectly balanced penalty kicks, which put the hosts into the lead in the opening minutes of the game. France restored parity in the score line from the boot of Clermont's Camille Lopez, but their discipline let them down. The French had a try disallowed and, by the half time, Sexton out-kicked Lopez to make the score 12-6 and gave Ireland an important six point cushion.

Shortly after the interval, Ireland full-back Rob Kearney, 28, fielded a high kick into the French 22. As a result, Sexton and Bastareaud clashed their heads and both men had to leave the field.

Sexton was replaced by Leinster's full-back Ian Madigan, 25, who shortly afterwards increased his side lead, by scoring a penalty. As Ireland appeared to be heavy favourites with 30 minutes left, France's scrum was beginning to show cracks.

Sexton returned after 55 minutes and even managed to score his fifth penalty before French replacement second row, Romain Taofifenua, 24, finally found a way through Ireland's defence and score a try for the visitors.

This was the only try of the match with only 10 minutes to go, but Ireland already had two penalty cushion which made the score safe.

France gradually improved as the second half progressed, and they attempted to play the ball wide in the final stages, but despite late spirit, they were unable to prevent the Irish from having a 100% record at this year's Six Nations. Joe Schmidt's side, the defending champions, have now won nine games consecutively and will host England in two weeks' time.