Imanol Harinordoquy of France is brought down by Ireland's Sean O'Brien and Jonathan Sexton [GALLO/GETTY]

France emerged the victor in a mouth-watering clash between the last two Six Nations Grand Slam champions, edging Ireland 25-22 in a thrilling contest at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Sunday.

Costly mistakes by a forceful Irish side allowed France to retain their hopes of defending their title, setting up a potential Six Nations title decider with England in the next round.

Ireland are unlikely to be happy with their ill-discipline as the visitors landed six penalties - including five from Morgan Parra - as the hosts outscored the French three tries to one.

The hosts' tries came from Fergus McFadden, with his first try for his country, Tomas O'Leary, who had been unable to train all week because of an injury worry, and Jamie Heaslip, who was returning from injury.

Maxime Medard got France's sole try, his second in successive Tests.

Strong start

Ireland, lucky to grind out an opening day win in Italy last week, showed glimpses of their championship winning form of 2009 to take a three-point lead at half time thanks to tries from McFadden and O'Leary.

France, who kept in touch through the boot of Morgan Para, took the lead for the first time through Maxime Medard's try on 55 minutes before replacement kicker Dimitri Yachvili extended their margin to 10 points.

Heaslip pulled a try back for the home side and France fended off some frenzied late Irish pressure to make it two wins from two.

Ireland started at a ferocious pace, forcing the French back phase after phase to allow fullback Luke Fitzgerald to cross the tryline. The try was ruled out for a pass that had strayed marginally forward.

France, though, were rattled and Clement Poitrenaud, in for the injured Maxime Mermoz, dropped the ball near his own line a minute later and Leinster's McFadden drove over for his first Irish try in just his second start.

Pressure

The game stayed fast and loose with the visitors starting to force more errors.

French scrumhalf Para traded penalties with an ever-improving Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton before three more from the left boot of Para edged his side 12-10 in front just before the half hour.

Ireland still looked the more dangerous from open play and upped the tempo once more to pin the French back on their line with O'Leary, passed fit on the morning of the game, sneaking over for a try that Sexton failed to convert.

Ireland continued to be penalised at the ruck and Para drew the sides level on 48 minutes before Medard made the breakthrough seven minutes later.

French centre Aurelien Rougerie used every inch of his towering frame to steamroll over opposite centre Gordon D'Arcy and free up Medard for his seventh international try in just over twice as many starts.

Yachvili slotted the conversion and added a penalty to put the French 10 points in front just after the hour mark.

The hosts were not yet out of the match and incessant pressure, caused by more than 20 phases of possession, ended in Heaslip squeezing home in the right corner.

Replacement Ronan O'Gara's conversion from the touchline brought the crowd to their feet and set up a tense finish, but Ireland couldn't complete the comeback.

France captain Thierry Dusautoir was a relieved man at the final whistle, telling the BBC: "It was a very tough game, perhaps not the game of the year but a very important one to win.

"Thank goodness we stayed in it despite only scoring one try. I'm very happy and proud of the team - it's never easy to come here." 

Source: Agencies