Monday, March 23, 2009

What a breathtaker!

After 61 years Ireland achieved a deserved Grand Slam defeating Wales at the Millenium Stadium. This is also their first victory in the 6 nations, their former victory being in 1985.

During the first half Stephen Jones scored two penalty kicks for Wales, while his teammates put more and more pressure on O'Gara that started to look uneasy, despite the rousing speech he gave to his mates in the morning. When the second leg began Wales only had to score a converted try to win the tournament, but after only a few minutes Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll scored the first try of the day, and Ronan O'Gara added two points to the game-bag putting Ireland on the lead.

Before Wales knew what was happening O'Gara kicked a wonderful ball beyond the Welsh line and Tommy Bowe scored another try. When asked about his try he simply said "it was nice". By the way, Bowe also sang a song during the presentation of the trophy in Dublin... lucky he's a rugby player and not a singer!

Stephen Jones kicked two more very important balls bringing the score to 12-14, with just one kick away from robbing from Ireland their long deserved glory; kick that arrived with just three minutes left to play when Stephen Jones pulled another ace out of his sleeve and scored a drop kick that couldn't give Wales the title but destroyed the Irish dream. With just a minute to play mr drop kick himself Ronan O'Gara reset the score to 17-15, freezing the Millenium Stadium.

As Paddy Wallace recalled later, he "just felt the game had sort of a lack of excitement", so he conceded a penalty from 50 meters. Ronan O'Gara (half?) joking declared that he "was ready to kill Paddy", which at the time was in a "Oh Jesus what have I done" mood.

The kick was short, Jones was torn apart and Ireland gained the Slam.

Later he swapped his jersey for O'Gara's (who hopes to get it back... quite an important keepsake!).

Back in Dublin, where a huge crowd welcomed the whole team, captain Brian O'Driscoll said about the victory "it's been fantastic". When asked how he felt the day after he said "you're not as sore as you would be if you'd lost"... that made me smile, as it reminded me of good old times when rugby was not only something I could write about.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney, who won the Six Nations and the Grand Slam on his first year on the bench, talking about his team said "yesterday it was their day... it was everybody's day, really". Sure it was my day! All rugby lovers should thank both teams for the thrilling match. I hope that Pancho will really bring me that DVD... Some pintes of Guinness should do, as I don't think our pubs have run dry of beer, even if maybe in Dublin they did: Llanelli beating New Zealand was probably a bigger occasion, but Ireland is looking forward to more victories and they would like to get used to it. Or, at least, they hope they won't have wait for another 61 years before the next one!

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