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Six Nations: Ireland snatch title as Brian O'Driscoll retires on a high

updated 3:48 PM EDT, Sat March 15, 2014
Brian O'Driscoll (front center) celebrates Ireland's Six Nations Champion ship success after winning at the Stade de France.
Brian O'Driscoll (front center) celebrates Ireland's Six Nations Champion ship success after winning at the Stade de France.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brian O'Driscoll bows out of international rugby as Ireland wins Six Nations title
  • Saturday's 22-20 victory in France ends England's hopes of snatching the crown
  • The English finish second on differential after beating Italy 52-11 in Rome
  • Wales in third place above France after thrashing Scotland 51-3 in Cardiff

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(CNN) -- Ireland gave Brian O'Driscoll a dramatic farewell to international rugby by clinching the Six Nations title with a tense 22-20 victory over France in Paris on Saturday.

The 35-year-old center was named man of the match in his record-extending 141st appearance at the highest level, as Ireland won the European tournament for the first time since 2009.

A French victory would have given the title to England, who thrashed Italy 52-11 in Rome earlier Saturday to end Les Bleus' own hopes.

France, beaten World Cup finalist in 2011, could have denied the Irish after scoring a controversial 63rd-minute try to Dimitri Szarzewski -- but Jean Marc Doussain missed a routine penalty kick soon after.

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The video official missed a knock-on by Szarzewski when the hooker touched down, but the home fans were left frustrated when a late match-winning score in the corner was ruled out following several TV replays for a forward pass by Pascal Pape.

"It feels great to be a two-time Six Nations winner," O'Driscoll said after his team held off the furious French onslaught.

"So many seconds along the years and so many disappointments -- it's great to finish my career on a high. When I do hang this jersey up on the hook inside it will be with fond memories.

"It was last-leg stuff and I know now why I'm packing it in because 80 minutes is a long bloody time at international level, particularly with guys like Mathieu Bastereaud running at you -- it's no fun."

It was Ireland's first win in Paris since 2000, which was also by a two-point margin.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton was one of the heroes on this occasion, scoring two of Ireland's three tries, but he was stretchered off with 10 minutes to go after being knocked out in a tackle.

The victory margin gave Ireland the title by 10 points on differential from England, who won the two teams' encounter 13-10 at Twickenham last month.

"Credit to Ireland -- they are deserved winners and it's a fitting finale and sendoff for Brian O'Driscoll, a legend of the game whom everyone in this squad respects massively," said England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

"We always knew this was going to be one of the tightest Six Nations and go down to the wire."

Wales finished third on differential above France, thrashing Scotland 51-3 in Cardiff.

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