Ireland down England in tense affair
March 18, 2006
Brian O'Driscoll lifts the Triple Crown trophy after his side's victory over England
© Getty Images
Ireland snatched a dramatic 28-24 victory over England at Twickenham to win the Triple Crown for the second time in three years and secure the runners-up spot in this season's Six Nations Championship.
In what proved to be a fitting finale to the most entertaining title race in recent memory, a brace of tries from Shane Horgan and another from Denis Leamy along with 13 points from the boot of Ronan O'Gara saw them claim their third successive victory over England and secure second place, on points difference, in this season's Championship behind France.
England, despite producing a vast improvement on last week's showing in Paris, were left to pick through the pieces of another defeat but may feel hard done by after being on the wrong end of three key decisions that involved television match official Hugh Watkins.
France's victory in Cardiff earlier in the day meant that Ireland required an unlikey big win at England's HQ if they were to usurp Les Bleus at the top of the table.
And to make their task even tougher it was England who started the brighter, pouncing on Ireland's failure to claim the kick-off before skipper Martin Corry led the charge into the 22. The ball was recycled well before a smart pass from Andy Goode allowed Jamie Noon the chance to breach the line with just over a minute on the clock.
Goode missed the conversion but it looked as if England were set to put last week's nightmare against France firmly behind them.
However they only held the lead for a few minutes as the Ireland came back strongly, with the help of some good fortune.
They were handed a chance to level the game when Ben Cohen slipped as he tried to field an opportunisitic kick ahead by Brian O'Driscoll inside his 22. To his credit Horgan was alert to the mistake and hacked the ball on as it brushed the line before touching the ball down for the try.
The replay suggested that the Irishman's foot may have been over the line as he toe-poked the ball on but the touch judge's flag was not raised and the score stood.
O'Gara struggled to find his range as he failed to add the extras but his forwards continued to dominate and the Irish backs responded by strecthing their hosts on more than one occasion.
A strong Irish drive soon took them deep into the England 22 and the English forwards were forced into pulling it down to snuff out the threat and they were duly penalised.
O'Gara was on target with the penalty to give his side the lead and he could have extended that lead moments later but failed to find the target.
Despite having a commanding presence in open play, Goode's day from the tee continued to get worse as he missed two chances to narrow the lead before Ireland went close to punnishing his shortcomings with their second try, only for O'Driscoll's final pass to Gordon D'Arcy to not go to hand when a try in the corner looked a certainty.
As a result of a penalty earlier in the play England suffered a further blow when lock Simon Shaw was sent to the bin soon for an offside offence and O'Gara slotted the penalty to give the Irish some breathing space.
The hosts remained in touch when Goode finally landed a penalty to close the gap to three points but the tale of missed chances continued up until the break with O'Gara missing the target again just short of the whistle.
England introduced Mike Tindll for Noon after the break but it was O'Gara who notched the first points after the break when an infringement from Lewis Moody handed him the chance. But Goode weighed in again before the half was five minutes old to reward England for a promsing passage of play.
A sustained spell of pressure from England brought reward soon brought reward in the shape of Borthwick's first try in an England shirt that was created by Goode, and the Leicester flyhalf added the extras to give England the lead for the second time in the game.
But as in the first half it was a lead that they failed to hold onto.
First Cohen was harshly called back for stepping onto the field as he attempted to take a quick lineout but worse was to come for England as the lineout was re-taken. The long throw from Lee Mears intended for Moody failed to find its target and Leamy juggled to control the ball before falling on it for the score - although it was left to the television match official to rule on the grounding.
O'Gara's conversion extended their advantage before England rallied again, and their hopes were boosted when a yellow card for Simon Easterby following a dangerous tackle on Goode looked like it may sway the game back in England's favour.
The home support drew further encouragement when Goode slotted another penalty to tie the scores at 21-21.
As the game entered the closing stages, O'Gara first missed a drop goal attempt before Goode edged England ahead with a superb touchline penalty - but there was still time for the game to turn on its head once more.
The much-heralded Irish backline clicked into gear one final time with an O'Gara chip causing problems before Brian O'Driscoll collected the ball at pace. He offloaded to to the charging Horgan who was denied by a scrambling Moody. However the ball was recycled once more and on this occasion Horgan won the duel with the England flanker to dot down in the corner.
However, both teams and both sets of fans were made to wait while we made one more trip to the television official Watkins who awarded the score to the delight of the Irish fans.
O'Gara's conversion ensured England would need a try with only seconds left in the contest and despite the opportunity offered by two further set pieces they were unable to prevent Ireland taking the glory.
England: 24 Tries: Noon, Borthwick Con: Goode Pens: Goode (4)
Ireland: 28 Tries: Horgan (2), Leamy Con: O'Gara (2) Pens: O'Gara (3)