Thursday 21 November 2019

Ireland are champions: Five defining moments in the most dramatic day of rugby

Joy for Ireland in Edinburgh as their 40-10 over Scotland was enough to claim back-to-back Six Nations titles
Joy for Ireland in Edinburgh as their 40-10 over Scotland was enough to claim back-to-back Six Nations titles
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell lifts the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship trophy
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

And so it is, the first back-to-back Six Nations title in 66 years for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland in a remarkable day of rugby as a 40-10 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield leaves a nation ecstatic.

With so many permutations involved in a truly chaotic day, Irish eyes were fixed on Twickenham where the English had to beat the French by 26 points to take the title but after a roller-coaster ride the Irish prevailed as Stuart Lancaster's side tried in vain for the tournament-winning try in a  nerve-racking finish. look back at one of the greatest days in Irish rugby history and the five most important moments that helped bring Ireland, and world rugby, to a standstill.

Joe Schmidt

No ordinary Joe

The ten-game winning streak gave substance to the fact that the Irish manager is something special and while their methodical style may not have pleased everyone, barring some poor execution against Wales it got the job done throughout this year’s campaign.

Perhaps, the most pleasing aspect of the Irish Head Coach was his ability to change style today when a big score was required. Ireland threw caution to the wind, but in his typical measured way, and created opportunity after opportunity to rack up the big score needed to pull off this miracle.

Scoring four tries and holding the Scots scoreless in the second-half exemplified his all-round brilliance.

21 March 2015; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell carries his son Paddy from the pitch at the end of the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

All bow to King O’Connell and Prince Henshaw

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Ireland needed to get out of the traps early and who better to lead by example and force an early try but the unflappable Paul O'Connell.

Superlatives don't do justice to the role which the Munster man plays in this Irish set up and if this to be his last Six Nations campaign, he could not have left a more indelible print than lifting the trophy in victory after a string of world-class displays.

And what of the young prince, Robbie Henshaw. Nobody could have predicted the instant impact which the Athlone native could make in the post-O'Driscoll era of Irish rugby. His tackling, yard gains and the memorable Gaelic Football-style try against England are signs of his amazing potential and he is sure to play a massive role in the nation's future.

21 March 2015; Ireland's Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien, right, after the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland. BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

The walking wounded repay faith

One of the biggest talking points throughout the Six Nations was the coach’s decision to thrust players such as Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien straight back into competitive action after injury layoffs.

Sexton returned to great effect against France and England in particular while Heaslip and the Tallow Tank saved their best moments for the final day of the tournament.

Man of the match O’Brien was a ball-carrying machine powering over for two tries while Heaslip, who suffered three cracked vertebra against the French, performed a heroic last-gasp tackle which forced Stuart Hogg to spill with a try at his mercy brought the game of inches to new levels.

RUGBYU Eng_197.jpg
England's Chris Robshaw leads his team off at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 21, 2015. See PA story RUGBYU England. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire

It’s not over til the fat lady sings

The role of the Italians in today’s Irish drama cannot be underestimated. Having trailed by a solitary point at the break they capitulated thereafter conceding a whopping 46 points without reply.

Wales looked to have set a target which would not be caught but up popped winger Leonardo Sarto to sprint down the touchline and make the Irish task a little more achievable.

The difficult conversion, kicked by substitute Luciano Orquera, was the icing on the cake as Irish momentum gathered and the Welsh rued a last minute error. Inches.

Jared Payne touches down to score his side's third try of the game.

Scotland feel the Payne

Criticism in the past week must have hurt Jared Payne as he was labelled a 'second-rate foreign player' by RTÉ pundit George Hook. What better way than to respond with actions instead of words.

The New Zealand-born centre gave one of his best performances in an Irish jersey, capped off by an exquisite training ground move involving Sexton and Tommy Bowe which was finished off by Payne.

Taking over the famous Irish number 13 jersey from the iconic O'Driscoll, the Ulster man showed that a week is a long time in sport as seven days after Cardiff heartbreak he made amends in the most unbelievable fashion.

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