Ireland seal Triple Crown victory
March 27, 2004
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates Ireland's Triple Crown victory
© Getty Images
It was far from championship winning stuff, but Ireland did enough to deservedly claim the Triple Crown for the seventh time in 107 years at Lansdowne Road this afternoon. Five times they crossed the Scottish line, in a 37-16 victory, as once again outside centre Gordon D'Arcy proved his mettle in a two-try man-of-the-match performance.
Some early nerves were most noticeably shown though by the Irish, funnelled down through out-half Ronan O'Gara, who was guilty of some poor kicking from hand and placed balls. And a first minute charge down of an O'Gara clearance by Scotland scrum half Chris Cusiter saw Chris Paterson, lining out at full back, open the scoring after a minute-and-a-half.
Ireland levelled three minutes later from the boot of the Munster number 10, but a 30-metre miss on 10 minutes saw another collective release of exasperated air from an expectant West stand.
A lovely swung pass from right-to-left, predictably from Brian O'Driscoll, who came in for some overtly physical attention early on, allowed Girvan Dempsey to scissor winger Shane Horgan through for D'Arcy to cut over from 15 metres out for his first on 18 minutes.
O'Gara missed the convert but Ireland crucially ended the first quarter 8-3 in front. Possession was forthcoming for the Scots but they looked limited, although Glasgow out-half Dan Parks capped a competent first half with a well-hit 40-metre drop four minutes before the break. That cancelled out O'Gara's second penalty success from three in the 24th minute, and on his second start since returning from a leg break, Geordan Murphy went over in the left-hand corner after a tight five-metre scrum sucked the visitors in and allowed the Irish three-quarters the space to send the Leicester Tiger over.
O'Gara went left with the conversion attempt, and the Irish nerves were jangled early in the second half, as they let in a soft try at 16-9 in front. Strangely enough they struck with their player of 2003 Simon Taylor off the field. The number 8 went down with a suspected knee ligament tear on 42 minutes but six minutes later the his fellow back row Allister Hogg dived over for his first international try, with Paterson squaring up the match with the convert.
The last half hour was to be Ireland's however as they claimed 21 unanswered points, beginning with recalled Munster back row David Wallace fashioning his own effort on 53 minutes from close range, after muscling out of a weak tackle from Parks.
On 62 minutes, scrum half Peter Stringer effectively sealed the result when he sniped over from a close range drive with Scotland stretched, and O'Gara's convert from the right put two scores between the sides.
D'Arcy, dominant in the loose and surpassing the gain line each time with ball in hand, cut out to Scotland's weaker left side with seven minutes remaining, offloading for Murphy before gleefully accepting the return to race clear of Paterson and replacement centre Brendan Laney for a stunning score. O'Gara's third conversion put the seal on a stop start performance, but critically for the sport in Ireland, the nation and a jubilant team, who enjoyed a lap of honour on the Lansdowne turf, have a first Triple Crown since 1985 in the bag, and a possible third second place in the last four years.