O'Driscoll magic gives Ireland famous win
March 19, 2000
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after his hat-trick sealed a famous victory for Ireland
© Getty Images
Only 48 hours after St Patrick's Day, Ireland was blessed by the God of rugby. Gatland's men won 27-25 in Paris against a French team that only once managed to find its way through the defensive wall.
The Irish hadn't won in France since 1972 - the year their captain Keith Wood was born. But today it wasn't the charismatic hooker who won the day for them, but Brian O'Driscoll - the centre three-quarter who scored a hat trick.
From the kick-off nobody would have bet on an Irish success. The new French winger David Bory touched down in the corner off the very first attack only for play to be brought back for a forward pass. Despite this disappointment, Les Bleus took the game by the scruff of the neck, without managing to cross the try line. And on the first Irish counter-attack, Brian O'Driscoll showed what a sprinter he is when he hit a pass from Malcolm O'Kelly on the fly to score Ireland's first points.
However, the French replied in kind five minutes later as scrum-half Christophe Laussucq scored after taking a quick freekick from three metres out, though it was Bernat-Salles' stunning break through the centre which created the platform for the 26-year-old to score his first try for his country.
In a wonderful flowing period of play Ireland came within inches of scoring another try but French captain Fabien Pelous put in a crashing tackle on flanker Kieron Dawson just short of the line.
Pelous, a member of the 1997 and 1998 Grand Slam sides, put in an even more memorable tackle five minutes later as he took down his Irish counterpart Keith Wood in full flow, leaving the usually unbreakable Irishman stunned on the ground.
But the Irish refused to lose heart. France led 19-7 and looked to be home and dry when the speedy Irish centre O'Driscoll running on to a perfectly timed pass by Rob Henderson bamboozled his way through the first defensive line and strolled under the posts for his second try.
Irish tails were up, despite the sin-binning of substitute Paddy Johns. The French pack was running out of gas after a frenetic first half and with the introduction of David Humphreys at fly-half, the Irish seemed to have more balance in their play.
The Ulster man reduced the deficit with a penalty and began to bring the Irish three-quarters in to the game with some quick-fire passing. The winger Denis Hickie, sent clear by his backrow, charged up the field and from the ensuing ruck, O'Driscoll pounced on a loose ball and darted through for his hat-trick.
Ireland had clawed their way back to within a point at 25-24, as they had done last year at Lansdowne Road, but this time around, there was to be a different outcome. Minutes before the full-time whistle, Humphreys stepped up to exorcise the ghosts of his late penalty miss last year to give Ireland a two point lead with a 40-yard penalty.
With only a few seconds to hold out, the Irish 15 took the ball up into French territory and held onto possession against an exhausted French team The final whistle was greeted with shouts of joy from the Celtic camp. The Irish lap of honour was well deserved. St. Patrick must have been looking down on Paris this weekend.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton