Sunday 25 March 2018

10 memorable Irish World Cup moments

Keith Woods scores against the USA in 1999
Keith Woods scores against the USA in 1999
Australia's Michael Lynagh in action in 1991
Devastated Irish players having been beaten by Argentina in 1999
Brian O'Driscoll makes an impact against Australia in 1999
Trevor Brennan
Alan Quinlan scores against Argentina in 2003
Trevor Brennan
Brian O'Driscoll scores the only try of the game against Australia in 2003
Denis Leamy in action against Georgia in 2007
Stephen Ferris in action against Australia in 2011
Irish players (left to right) Paddy Johns, Gary Halpin and Gabriel Fulcher sing the Irish anthem before the game against New Zealand in 1995

Cian Tracey looks back on some stand-out occasions from Stephen Ferris picking up Will Genia like a ragdoll, to Keith Wood's heroics and the Lens nightmare of '99

1 - Kicking kings Ireland outgun Australia 15-6 (2011)

Four defeats in Ireland's four warm-up games followed by a stuttering win over USA in the first pool game had justifiably left a rather flat feeling going into the game against Australia.

The Wallabies came into the tournament as Tri-Nations champions and had been tipped for the title but they left Eden Park without a losing bonus point as Stephen Ferris inspired Ireland to a famous victory.

Not many had given Ireland a prayer but as the rain teemed down, the Irish forward pack began to rise. Johnny Sexton kicked two penalties and a drop goal while Ronan O'Gara, who replaced the injured Gordon D'Arcy, also kicked a pair of penalties.

As precious as the victory was, it will perhaps be best remembered for Ferris' tackle on Will Genia in which he picked up the scrum-half and drove him back into his own 22 and so the 'choke tackle' was born.

2 - Wood's trying spree against USA (1999)

Few would argue that Keith Wood is Ireland's greatest ever hooker and against the USA in 1999, he joined an elite group of players who have scored four tries or more in a World Cup game.

The likes of Jonah Lomu, Chris Latham and Chester Williams have all managed to do so but, as a forward, Wood's feat still stands out.

He still holds the try-scoring Test record for a hooker (15) and four of them came that evening at Lansdowne Road.

In typical Wood fashion, he showed great awareness to score from close range for the first three of his tries but the fourth perhaps typified what made him better than the rest.

Eric Elwood spotted the lightning-quick hooker out on the far touchline before playing a perfectly weighted dink over the American defence. Wood found himself up against his opposite number but his blistering pace saw him cross for try number four.

3 - Lynagh breaks Irish hearts (1991)

So near and yet so far.

Gordon Hamilton's try with five minutes remaining had put Ireland into the lead against the Wallabies and on the cusp of a place in the semi-final but Michael Lynagh would have the final say.

Australia had led 15-12 before Hamilton looked to have snatched victory at a joyous Lansdowne Road but it was short-lived.

Ralph Keyes slotted the touchline conversion but Ireland were soon stunned. Australia won a scrum and rather than line up a drop-goal attempt that would have sent the match to extra-time, they moved the ball wide.

Lynagh, who was vice-captain, called the move and Jason Little and David Campese combined brilliantly to send Lynagh over for a try that silenced a Lansdowne Road that just seconds earlier had been deafening.

Australia's Michael Lynagh in action in 1991

4 - Quinlan goes through the pain barrier against Argentina (2003)

Ireland knew that realistically they needed a win over the Pumas to advance to the quarter-finals and when Alan Quinlan scored a try midway through the first half, they took hold of the momentum.

Keith Wood showed a brilliant turn of foot to run through the middle of the Argentina defence before finding the onrushing Quinlan who had a cut a perfect line off the hooker's left shoulder to sprint over the line.

Quinlan, however, was left crumpled in a heap after dotting the ball down and would have hardly have appreciated Marcus Horan's (who didn't know that he had been injured in the process) attempts to haul him off the ground in celebration.

The Munster back-row dislocated his shoulder and with that went his tournament. It was a real bittersweet moment for him as it would turn out to be the final time that he played for Ireland at a World Cup.

Alan Quinlan scores against Argentina in 2003

5 - Brennan takes it to the Wallabies (1999)

Never one to back down, Trevor Brennan came off second best in an off-the-ball scrap with Australia number eight Toutai Kefu.

The pair had to be separated after punches were exchanged and although the referee didn't take any action against either player, both were cited afterwards.

Brennan was forced to be substituted due to the cut on his head that he was left with, which would turn out to be his final involvement at the tournament.

The Dubliner has always maintained that he had his arms held back as Kefu landed multiple punches.

Brennan missed the following defeat to Argentina due to suspension which ended his World Cup. Kefu would return from his ban in time to lift the Webb Ellis trophy to rub salt into the wounds.

6 - Ireland come up short against Australia again (2003)

On the back of a one-point victory over Argentina (16-15), Ireland found themselves on the wrong side of another close result.

Australia as well as Ireland were guaranteed their place in the last eight but finishing top of the pool would be crucial.

George Smith's first-half try had helped the Wallabies into a 14-6 lead before Brian O'Driscoll pulled Ireland back into the contest with clinically-taken try in the corner.

John Kelly fed the flame-haired O'Driscoll who somehow managed to get the ball down, despite two last-ditch tackles.

Ireland began to believe that a shock was on the cards but Elton Flatley kicked his side back into the lead. O'Driscoll would respond with a drop goal but Ireland came up short and went on to face France in the quarter-finals.

7 - Leamy saves Ireland's blushes against Georgia (2007)

Denis Leamy enjoyed a successful rugby career but his contribution on a dark night in Bordeaux will never be forgotten by Irish supporters.

Ireland led 14-10 against what was aweakened Georgia side and, as the clock ticked towards red, Georgia thought they had got over for what would have been a match-winning try.

Referee Wayne Barnes went to the TMO and after watching several replays, he spotted that Leamy had managed to get his hand under the ball and stop the try.

It was very near to being the biggest disaster in the history of Irish rugby but it only served as a taster for what was to come as Ireland failed to get out of their pool.

Denis Leamy in action against Georgia in 2007

8 - O'Driscoll announces himself on the world stage (1999)

It was the game that will largely be remembered for Keith Wood's four tries but a 21-year old Brian O'Driscoll marked his arrival at the World Cup by scoring his first of many Ireland tries.

USA boldly attempted to run the ball out of their own 22 but Ireland managed to turn it over and O'Driscoll scampered his way over the whitewash. The moment almost got the better of him as he nearly ran the ball over the dead ball area but the sight of him scoring would become a familiar one for Irish fans.

O'Driscoll would go on to score another 46 international tries.

9 - The Pumas tame Ireland (1999)

The Stade Felix Bollaert in the French city of Lens will forever give Irish supporters nightmares.

Ireland needed to win the play-off with Argentina to qualify for the quarter-finals but what transpired remains a watershed moment in Irish rugby history.

Ireland had played all three pool games in the comforting surrounds of Lansdowne Road but when they faced the fiery Pumas in Lens, they got taught a valuable lesson.

Warren Gatland's men had led 21-9 but somehow managed to let Argentina back into the game through winger Diego Albanese's try.

Argentina were reduced to 14 players for the closing stages at which point, in their utter desperation, Ireland resorted to a 13-man lineout but it proved futile as another World Cup campaign petered out.

10 - Gary Halpin 'salutes' the All Blacks (1995)

Scoring a try for your country at a World Cup is a special feeling for any player but scoring against the All Blacks must be on another level.

So when Gary Halpin barged his way over the whitewash in Ireland's opening game of the 1995 World Cup, one can only assume that the moment got the better of him.

The tighthead prop celebrated by flashing both of his middle fingers at the New Zealand players as he was dragged back to the halfway line by his team-mates.

The All Blacks didn't take too kindly to Halpin's taunting however and went on to comfortably beat them 43-19 but his celebration will live long in the memory.

Irish Independent

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