Tuesday 6 December 2016

O'Gara rescues woeful Irish

Italy 11 Ireland 13

Published 06/02/2011 | 05:00

Ronan O'Gara kicks the late match-winning drop goal in Ireland's 13-11 win over Italy in the opening round of the Six Nations Championship at Stadio Flaminio in Rome yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran
Ronan O'Gara kicks the late match-winning drop goal in Ireland's 13-11 win over Italy in the opening round of the Six Nations Championship at Stadio Flaminio in Rome yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran

I reland came within two minutes of losing their unbeaten Six Nations record against Italy yesterday only for Ronan O'Gara to save them with a last-gasp drop goal at Rome's Stadio Flaminio.

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Italy's Luke McLean had put the home side ahead with a try out wide which, crucially, Mirco Bergamasco failed to convert. That left the door open for Ireland to pull back a penalty or drop goal, and having regained the ball at the restart, Declan Kidney's side held it long enough for O'Gara to drop over the winning kick from 22 metres.

It was reminiscent of the Grand Slam win in Cardiff two seasons ago when O'Gara, who replaced Jonathan Sexton in the final quarter yesterday, put Ireland ahead in similar circumstances.

For Ireland to have been out of the running for that prize again, and probably the Championship as well, after the first game would have been a hammer blow to a team looking to build ahead of the World Cup.

Never have Ireland struggled so badly with their finishing against the Italians since they lost to them three times running in the 1990s.

"You can't cough up that amount of ball in Test match rugby and expect to win but we showed great resolve to come back and do that," captain Brian O'Driscoll said afterwards.

"It's not as if we haven't played a lot of rugby this season and the mistakes were uncharacteristic.

"We'll have to look at them. We've got to expect more of one another. But at the same time you can lose with a substandard performance or you can win with one and thankfully we won."

With a total of 11 players unavailable to Declan Kidney for yesterday's Test, there were no obvious additions to that number in what was a typically attritional contest. Of those injured, Tony Buckley will be fit for next Sunday's visit of France and there is an outside chance of Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Bowe being available as well.

Kidney will have to decide what changes to make if he is to develop a squad not just for the remainder of the Six Nations but for the World Cup as well. Seán Cronin, Leo Cullen and Eoin Reddan will all be pressing their claims for a start next Sunday.

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