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...Arms Park, Cardiff, February 4, 1989: Ireland number 8 Noel Mannion has just enough gas to make it to the Welsh line with David Bryant straining to catch the Corinthians clubman...

17 years ago today, Galway man Noel Mannion galloped up the right wing at the old Arms Park to score one of the greatest tries in the history of Irish rugby.

Ireland claimed a 19-13 win against the Welsh that afternoon, having worried a French side captained by current Italy coach Pierre Berbizier at scrum half, two weeks previously at Lansdowne Road. The Irish, then coached by Ulster's Jim Davidson, lost 26-21 to France.

The '98 Five Nations campaign fell apart for the Irish after the Welsh win - defeats followed to England (16-3) and Scotland (37-21) and it was not until the following March that the men in green posted another win - against, you guessed it, Wales.

Mannion, then 26, was earning his fourth cap and his now infamous try was the first of his 16-cap career. The Ballinasloe-born forward also scored a brace of tries against Japan at the 1991 World Cup - two years later, he made his last appearance in green in a Five Nations defeat (15-3) by Scotland.

Cardiff has been a happy stomping ground ever since the memorable events of '89 - Ireland had wracked up five wins and a draw in the Welsh capital city before last year's 32-20 loss at the hands of Mike Ruddock's Grand Slam champions.

Memories of Mannion's second half try that day are best conjured up by Mike Hughes who, working for the Irish Emigrant, wrote:

"Wales, on one of their more threatening offensives, swept down onto the Irish 22-metre line. Bledwyn Bowen's fly kick was blocked well, and in the process fortunately smothered by Noel Mannion, who came up with the ball as much to his own surprise as everybody else's. He was open and somewhere on the horizon to his front was the Welsh line. He lumbered off in a bee-line and the most amazing rugby scene developed...

"The Galwayman resembled the risen fox being pursued by his own red jacketed Galway Blazers in full cry. All that was missing was the plaintive tooting of the hunting horn, and the baying of the hounds. Oh! he heard the sound of the hooves all right but they were Welsh and Irish players thundering in the pursuit. (David) Bryant, straining to catch his quarry, was the nearest Welshman. It was a long journey - a full 70 yards - with the Welsh 22-metre line passed, Mannion was digging into some reserve tanks for a few more paces...

"Bryant lunged at his heels but the lunge was more desperate than effective. Three more strides and man from my own club, Corinthians, fell over the line in a dive that was as graceful as a tree being felled. He remained on the ground for a few moments, totally drained after scoring one of the most remarkable tries ever seen in the game. Kiernan missed the conversion in the ensuing mayhem but Ireland had stretched their lead. There were 15 minutes gone (in the second half), Ireland 13 Wales 6."

The score brightened a dark day, helped Ireland to their third straight win in Cardiff and certainly paid for many a pint for Mr. Mannion over the years!

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20 June 2018
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