Ireland have been crowned Grand Slam champions after Ronan O’Gara booted a late drop goal to secure a 17-15 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
Sporting Life reports that Stephen Jones appeared to have denied Ireland the clean sweep when he landed a drop-goal of his own, but O’Gara struck the decisive blow with two minutes remaining.
Tries from man of the match Brian O’Driscoll and Tommy Bowe, both within six minutes after the interval, put Ireland on course for victory in a nerve-shredding contest.
But four penalties from the superb Jones kept defending champions Wales, who needed to win by a minimum of 13 points to retain their title, in touch as they sought to deny Ireland the clean sweep.
O’Driscoll was delighted after the match.
The Ireland captain said: “The amount of things going through the head during the week, permutations of what might be…It feels so good and to go down to that at the end, it would have broken my heart.
“I’m so proud of the boys, we took a lot of flak the last 18 months and to come back and win I’m so delighted.”
It was a suitably dramatic finale to the championship but Ireland coach Declan Kidney joked: “It was never in doubt!
“It’s 80 minutes and you take what’s there at the end, some days it swings for you and some days it doesn’t.
“This is all due to the groundwork laid over the last few years.
“Hopefully everybody will have a good night, it’s very special.”
Speaking about his missed penalty, Jones said: “It was going straight but just didn’t have the legs.
“The last five minutes went through the full range of emotions, it’s tough to come out second best.
“We showed good composure to get back into the game, it was disappointing to concede those quick 14 points but we stuck at it.
“Ireland played smart rugby but from our perspective it was disappointing.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted “patchy” would be a fair description of his side’s performances throughout the championships.
“That’s fair enough,” he said. “We haven’t always played to our potential.
“We played some good rugby in the first half and showed some character after being 14-6 down and a couple of things have been pretty costly.
“We just have to learn to be a bit smarter and little more accurate.
“But we have to be gracious in defeat and say well done to the Irish players. It was a tough Test match and they’ve achieved something they haven’t for a long time.
“They deserve it.”Tweet