Irish land first grand slam since 1948 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Irish land first grand slam since 1948

22/03/2009 03:33:19 PM Comments (0)

Ireland claimed their first Six Nations Rugby Grand Slam since 1948 after edging Wales 17-15 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Two tries in the first six minutes of the second-half from Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe, both converted by Ronan O'Gara, seemed set to be enough to see the gritty Irish side to victory.

But Wales hit back with four penalties and a drop-goal from Stephen Jones that gave the home side a 15-14 lead with four minutes of the hard-hitting game to play.

It was left to O'Gara, whose out-of-hand kicking in the second-half proved the foundation for Irish success, to kick a drop-goal a minute later to end Ireland's 61-year drought.

However, they then survived a fraught final minute when Jones missed with a penalty attempt from just inside the halfway line.

Man-of-the-match O'Driscoll said: "We took a lot of flak over the last 18 months but now we are the Six Nations Grand Slam winners for the first time in 61 years. I'm delighted."

When asked what coach Declan Kidney said at half-time, when Ireland trailed 6-0, O'Driscoll added: "He said 'We are still in it and we've not converted pressure into points.' But we came out firing, got two quick tries."

Wales coach Warren Gatland was magnanimous in defeat.

"We've got to be gracious. Hats off to the Irish, well done," said the New Zealander who was also coach of Ireland between 1998-2001.

"They've won all their matches. They've learned along the way how to win games.

"I'm disappointed, but it was a really tough test match. The two best teams in the competition played today. It was a fantastic match of high quality and drama."

In a high-tempo, bad-tempered match in which there were three general dust-ups in the first frantic half-hour, defence was the early winner.

In testament to what a hard-fought game it was, Stephen Jones scored the first points of the game in the 33rd minute, after Leamy failed to move away in the tackle, kicking over a 30-metre penalty.

Jones then doubled the home side's tally with a long-range effort in the 39th minute after Barnes penalised Ireland for crossing.

The second-half started very much as Ireland would have wanted it.

Three minutes of intense pressure on the Wales line paid off when O'Driscoll burst through three tacklers for a try that O'Gara converted for a 7-6 lead.

That was extended to 14-6 just one minute later, an O'Gara dink over the Welsh midfield picked up on the bounce by winger Tommy Bowe, who stepped Gavin Henson's despairing tackle to sprint in under the posts from 30 metres.

Jones pulled back six points with penalties in the 51st and 56th minutes after an Irish line-out infringement and a needless shove by Donncha O'Callaghan on Mike Phillips.

But Ireland continued to turn the screw, targeting diminutive winger Shane Williams and makeshift full back Henson with an aerial bombardment that made for uncomfortable viewing for the vocal majority of the packed Millennium Stadium.

Henson failed with a 50-metre shot at goal with 13 minutes left to play as Wales tried to muster their forces.

When Phillips was dragged down after a scintillating break, the ball was efficiently recycled and Jones was on hand to land the drop goal.

But Jones was at fault a minute later when he cleared his lines straight into touch from a Phillips pass made outside of the 22m area.

From the resulting line-out and Irish pick-and-goes, O'Gara manoeuvred himself into the box and calmly slotted the winning drop goal.

Brian Cowen, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, hailed the Irish team's Six Nations rugby union Grand Slam as one of "Ireland's greatest ever sporting victories".

Cowen, who was among the crowd at the Millennium Stadium, said in a statement: "I want to extend my sincere congratulations to the Irish rugby team on their immense achievement in winning the Grand Slam.

"It was a privilege to be in Cardiff and to witness the team's courage, remarkable determination and will to win for Ireland.

"The players have brought great distinction to themselves and to our country.

"The scale of the team's achievement is evident from the fact that the last time Ireland won a Grand Slam was 61 years ago.

"Today's triumph will go down in the annals as one of Ireland's greatest ever sporting victories."

Cowen also said that "great credit" was due to coach Declan Kidney, captain Brian O'Driscoll and the entire squad after Ireland had won the tournament for the first time since 1985.

The Irish rugby union team remains an all-Ireland team with players from both the Republic in the south and the British province of Northern Ireland eligible to play despite partition of the island in 1921.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news