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'A unique championship' - The year five teams 'won' the Five Nations

On This Day, April 14, 1973


Ireland's win over France in the 1973 Five Nations meant the table ended in a unique five-way tie. Connolly Collection / SPORTSFILE

Ireland's win over France in the 1973 Five Nations meant the table ended in a unique five-way tie. Connolly Collection / SPORTSFILE

Ireland's win over France in the 1973 Five Nations meant the table ended in a unique five-way tie. Connolly Collection / SPORTSFILE

In a new series, Independent.ie goes through the archives to bring you the hot topics of years gone by. On April 14, 1973, Ireland beat France in the final game of the Five Nations - which produced a five-way tie at the top of the table. As there was no tiebreaker applied, that is how the standings finished. Here is how the Sunday Independent recorded events.

What a thriller!

By Colm Smith

The long last blast, of the referee's whistle can never have sounded more sweetly in Irish ears as it did at Lansdowne Road yesterday.

In the first moments of injury time, the capacity crowd held their breaths as French out-half Romeu stood poised to convert Phliponeau's try and give France a draw and the championship for 1973. The Irish relief as the ball sailed wide of the far upright was expressed in one of the loudest cheers of an entertaining game.

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The anxiety of Ireland's desperate defence for most of the second half had finally passed. Their stubborn rearguard action had triumphed over the French onslaught. The victory margin of two penalty goals to a try gives us a share in a unique championship, which all five nations finished with four home points.

So, the French will go home bitterly disappointed but they have only themselves to blame for failing to capitalise on many opportunities. The best of these came from place-kicks but Romeu, their ace marksman who had scored 35 points in internationals this season, left his kicking boots at home.

Apart from the conversion, which was 15 yards in from touch, he missed three penalty goals, two from the 25. If Romeu was the villain of France, Terry Moore was Ireland's hero.

The tall fair-haired Corkman was everywhere the action was and his work at the end of the line-out and in the loose was the main feature of Ireland's success. The foundations had been laid early on as Ireland played with all the fire and spirit of the tradition in a wind-assisted first half.

The ball was being moved swiftly and smoothly in three-quarter movements, which were as successful as they were exhilarating. Tony Ensor, who could not remember 20 minutes of the game after a cruel short arm tackle by Esteve just before the break, put Ireland in front with a massive kick from 57 yards in the 18th minute.

Mike Gibson added to it 10 minutes after the break with an easy one from just outside the 25 and Ireland, having at this stage completely upset the French, looked well on the road to victory.

But there was a mysterious change in tactics. The earlier running policy was apparently dispensed with and Mick Quinn, playing his first international, began to kick, not indeed with any great reward.

The French, obviously relieved when Ireland stopped coming at them, launched their own series of attacks in their own inimitable style, forcing Ireland to remain inside their own half for the last half hour of play.

Remarkable, many a French move broke down because of poor handling particularly among the backs, who often wasted good opportunities provided by good forward play. The more rewarding features of Ireland's first-half play were the clean heel from the set scrums and the amount of possession secured mainly by Mick Molloy from the rucks.

But when the tactics were altered so was the supply of possession and France began to get more and more ball from the rucks but, thanks to great defensive work by men like Gibson, Moore and Slattery, they were unable to use it to full advantage.

Ensor, apart from his tremendous contribution from that penalty goal, had quite a good game apart from the period immediately after his injury while Gibson and Milliken once again operated well in the centre. New cap Dennison, on the right wing as Tom Grace's replacement, did not get a great deal to do.

I was sorry to see Quinn change the tactics after a good and promising first half while Moloney made a number of excellent breaks, which took the pressure off Ireland. Among the forwards there was a tremendous spirit and all gave their best, particularly Moore and new cap Roger Clegg.

Ensor was directly involved in the first two scoring opportunities. The first in the opening minute almost brought a score, when the full back cross-kicked to the posts and was barely beaten to the touchdown by Aguirre.

Five minutes later Ensor stopped what looked like a certain French try when he stopped Cantoni just short of the line. Romeu missed the first of his penalties from 35 yards in the 11th minute and seven minutes later Ensor gave Ireland the lead. The French out-half missed the easiest of his kicks in the 22nd minute and, although Ensor and Quinn were later wide with penalty efforts, Ireland deserved their half-time lead.

In the opening minutes of the second half the French looked dangerous when Aguirre carried them almost to the Irish line but from the line, Romeu failed once again to convert a penalty and in the tenth minute Gibson increased the Irish lead from 28 yards. From then on we spent most of the time on the defensive but held on grimly until the first minute of injury-time, when Phliponeau darted over following a scrum five yards from the Irish line. But for the fourth time Romeu failed to add the points.

IRELAND: A. H. Ensor (Wanderers); J. P. S. Dennison (Garryowen), R. A. Milliken (Bangor), C. M. H. Gibson (N.I.F.C.), A. W. McMaster (Ballymena); M. A. Quinn (Lansdowne), J. J. Moloney (St. Mary's Coll.): R.J McLoughlin (Blackrock Coll.), K. W. Kennedy (London Irish), R. J. Clegg (Bangor), M. G. Molloy (London Irish), W. J. McBride (Ballymena) (captain), J. F. Slattery (Blackrock Coll.), T. A. P. Moore (Highfield), S. A. McKinney (Dungannon).

FRANCE: . J. M. Aguirre (Bagneres); J. F. Phliponeau (Montferrand), J. Maso (Narbonne), C. Badin (Chalon), J. Cantoni (Beziers); J. P. Romeu (Montferrand), M. Barrau (Toulouse), J. Iracabal (Bayonne), R. Benesis (Agen), J.L, Azarette (St. Jean de Luz), E. Cester (Valence), A. Esteve (Beziers), A. Saisset (Beziers), W Spanbbero (Narbonne) (captain), P. Biemouret (Agen).

Referee: R. F. Johnson (England).

Online Editors