An injury time drop goal from Ronan O'Gara gave Ireland a one point 25-24 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
An injury time drop goal from Ronan O'Gara gave Ireland a one point 25-24 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
In what was quite an incredible finish O'Gara kept his composure admirably to snatch an unlikely victory just moments after Stephen Jones had kicked what looked to be the winning drop-goal from the Ireland 10 metre line. That score signalled a marvellous comeback by the home side after they had trailed 14-7 at the break and then 19-7 minutes after the restart. Ireland's second try, from Keith Gleeson, came about after Anthony Foley had blocked an attempted clearance and at that stage it seemed that Ireland would coast to a comfortable win. However it was the Welsh who took the greater inspiration from that score and they came back to score two tries, one from Martyn Williams in the 52nd minute follwed by their third of the match when Garteh Thomas rumbled over. The conversion from Stephen Jones put the home side one point in arrears (22-21) - David Humphreys having landed his fourth penalty moments earlier - and their last chance to snatch victory seemed to disappear when Jones was wide with a long range penalty. But then for the drama-laden closing stages. Jones struck a magnificent drop-goal from the Ireland 10 metre line but from the restart peter Stringer fed O'Gara and the Munster man clipped one over to restore Ireland's advantage. And then they had to survive a further period of pressure and did so when Welsh enthusiasm got the better of good judgement. With the Welsh throwing everything into attack, Ireland were forced into desperate defence along their own 22. As the Welsh moved the ball right referee Steve Landers seemed to signal a penalty directly in front of the Irish posts. Had the Welsh stopped playing, Jones would have been presented with the easiest kick of the afternoon but the Welsh continued to play, landers played advantage and the opportunity to kick the penalty passed. Ireland deserved their victory for the courage they showed in the second half when they had to absorb enormous pressure and the hopes of a grand slam remain. There was also a memorable moment for the O'Callaghan family when Donncha came on in the 70th minute to win his first senior international cap and in the short time he was on the pitch he made a significant contribution in this Irish victory.