Keith Earls has pointed the finger of blame at referee Steve Walsh for Ireland’s failure to overcome France at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday as the sides played out a draw for the second year in a row.
Despite dictating the play for long periods after the interval, Ireland failed to build on a 13-3 halftime lead and a late Louis Picamoles try helped France secure a draw.
The game followed a similar pattern to last year’s Six Nations meeting in the Stade de France when Ireland stormed into a first half lead only to be held scoreless after the change of ends as France came back to snatch a draw.
A frustrated Earls admitted it was disappointing not to win, highlighting the decision-making of referee Walsh as a key factor.
“I don’t think we lacked anything, it was just decisions against us,” the Munster man said.
“It’s just like a loss for us. I think we outplayed them and a lot of the decisions in the second half didn’t go our way.
“I think this is the third year on the trot that we have outplayed France but decisions didn’t go our way and we didn’t have our composure.”
Earls was particularly incensed about Walsh’s refusal to blow for a penalty when the Limerick man appeared to be illegally interfered with by Vincent Debaty as he gave chase to Eoin Reddan’s grubber kick.
The Irish winger looked favourite to get to the ball as it bounced over the French try line but Debaty collided with him and Picamoles touched down to relieve the danger.
There is no doubt in Earls’ mind that it was a foul and he maintains his team were denied a late penalty or even a penalty-try which would surely have won them the game.
“In my eyes it was definitely a penalty, I haven’t seen it to see whether it could have been a penalty try but he knocked me off my feet, he came across my line so I thought that was a bad decision.
“In my eyes I thought I would have (reached the ball first). He came across, it wasn’t even a shoulder, he used his elbow and forearm to push me off my feet.
“My eyes lit up, it’s been a while since I scored a try for Ireland. It could have been the winner against France so it’s heartbreaking.”
From an Irish perspective this Six Nations campaign promised much after a thrilling victory over Wales in Round 1 but Saturday’s draw, on the back of defeats to England and Scotland has set up a rather underwhelming final round meeting with Italy.
Despite the fact that neither side has much to play for, Earls insists it always means something to the players when they pull on the green jersey for a Test match.
“It’s never hard to get up for an international game, especially going over to Rome where the Italians are strong, they’ve taken a few scalps over there, so it’s still a massive game.”