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Players Savour History-Making Win

Players Savour History-Making Win

Helped by powerhouse performances from Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell and a match-winning drop goal from Ronan O’Gara, Ireland bridged a 61-year gap when they edged out Wales on a 17-15 scoreline to become RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam champions.

Tears of joy were shed by Irish people in Cardiff and at home and abroad as Declan Kidney’s side claimed Ireland’s first Grand Slam since 1948, their first Championship title since 1985 and a fourth Triple Crown in six years.

This was a match you could not take your eyes off and there was drama from start to finish, right until Geordan Murphy touched the ball down after Wales out-half Stephen Jones had missed a last-minute penalty attempt.

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Just moments after raising the trophy aloft, a delighted Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll 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 (kick) 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 the Grand Slam, I’m so delighted.”

Ireland were 6-0 behind at half-time, after conceding a brace of penalty goals to Jones. But Ireland came out a renewed force for the second half, scoring two quick-fire tries in the space of two minutes.

“Deccie just said at half-time that we were still completely in it, we hadn’t converted our pressure into points and we came out firing and got two quick tries,” O’Driscoll added.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic end than that, for Stephen to miss that penalty by a yard.”

Although Ireland seemed to have control at 14-6, defending champions Wales bounced back through the boot of Jones.

The Welsh out-half’s drop goal, struck five minutes from the finish, nudged the home side into a 15-14.

But Ireland had the final say on the scoreboard when Ronan O’Gara stood tall and slotted a 78th-minute drop goal after some hard grafting from the forwards.

Speaking about that kick, O’Gara said: “They (the Welsh) were really on me so I really had to get the ball up – it was ugly but it flew straight and that’s all that matters.

“But it was 90 seconds too early – we gave them another shot. My heart goes out to Stephen really, the game also meant so much to him.”

O’Gara, who will rival Jones for the Lions number 10 jersey this summer, added: “It’s so unfair the pressure all comes down to the kickers.

“I just wanted to console with him and congratulate him on a good game. I know Stephen well enough that I might get my shirt back for a few quid!”

Paul O’Connell, Ireland’s pack leader and vice-captain, was admittedly contemplating defeat after Jones had made a good connection with his last-gasp penalty.

The tireless second row said: “I thought the kick was going over, I saw it on target and thought we’d lost it..

‘It went from losing the whole thing to winning the whole thing in half a second.”

O’Connell was overjoyed to end Ireland’s long wait for their second Grand Slam and even more so that this current crop of players, including many of the nation’s so-called ‘golden generation’, followed up on the Triple Crown triumphs of recent years.

“It’s a massive moment. I think I’ve been playing for Ireland for seven years and we’ve had so many close calls.

“It’s been too long coming and we wanted this more than anything.

“We’ve not played well the last three games but we just got the job done and got what we wanted.

“I wouldn’t say it was a case of now or never (for this group) but it was going to be one of our best chances and it doesn’t happen very often.

“We were lucky enough to take it.”