France were the more inventive side in the opening half and the two David Skrela penalties that gave them a six point lead after seven minutes was no more than they deserved.
Oâ00Gara opened his sideâ00s account with an 11th minute penalty after the French had needlessly infringed on their own ten minutes line in the process of launching a promising looking attack.
Two minutes later the visitors scored the opening try when captain Raphael Ibanez stepped inside Geordan Murphyâ00s tackle to score on the left at the Hill 16 end and Skrela added the extras to give France a 10 point advantage.
Oâ00Gara tapped over a gimme from in front of the posts in the 23rd minute and then orchestrated Irelandâ00s opening try seven minutes later. Clement Poitrenaud sliced a clearance that gave Ireland a line out on the French 22. When the ball was swept wide Oâ00Garaâ00s dummy created the space and Denis Hickie and Shane Horgan put the ball through the hands to David Wallace who had Oâ00Gara looping around to score a superbly worked try.
Ireland went in at the break just two points down (13-11) but they were fortunate because Skrela missed two penalty opportunity in the closing minutes and that after a Murphy block-down saved a certain try.
In the second half Ireland never really managed to impose themselves. They again looked in a bit of bother when the French went wide inside the Ireland 22 but Imanol Harinordoquy knocked on with men outside.
Not many scoring chances afforded themselves in that second half but there was an incident late in the half when Marcus Horan hacked through and looked to be impeded by a French defender. However in this instance, 'swings and roundaouts' springs to mind if we hark back to the Welsh game and a similar incident involving Chris Czejak and Simon Easterby,
To their credit, he Irish pack worked the position for Oâ00Gara to kick them ahead in the 56th minute before replacement fly-half Lionel Beauxis saw his drop goal attempt come back off an upright. Then with just three minutes of normal time remaining the Irish pack mauled their way down to the French ten metre line and Oâ00Gara landed the penalty for a four point lead that seemed certain to grant a home victory on this historic occasion.
From the kick off however, France regained possession and Clerc dashed through for the winning touchdown
Ireland: G Dempsey, G Murphy (A Trimble 60 min), S Horgan, G D'Arcy, D Hickie, R O'Gara, I Boss; M Horan, R Best (J Flannery 60 min), J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (captain); S Easterby (N Best 64 min), D Wallace, D Leamy.
France: C Poitrenaud, V Clerc, D Marty, Y Jauzion, C Dominici, D SkrÃ©la (L Beaxis 57 min), P Mignoni; S Marconnet. R IbaÃ±ez (captain), P de Villiers (O Milloud 60 min), P PapÃ© (J Thion 50 min), L Nallet, S Betsen, I Harinordoquy, S Chaba (J Bonnaire 53 min)l.
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand), Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)