This weekend Ireland take on England in the Six Nations with a Triple Crown up for grabs, Matt Cassidy takes a look back at five great Irish Triple Crown victories.
One of the great dates of the Irish sporting calendar takes place this Saturday when twenty three heroes in green will line up for Ireland’s Call at Twickenham. Traditionally, taking on the Auld Enemy has been Ireland’s biggest game of the season but the 2014 instalment of the Anglo-Irish rivalry has added significance as an Irish victory would seal an eleventh Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown has been played for since 1883 and is contested between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The achievement of beating the three other Home Nations is probably held with highest regard in Ireland as Grand Slams have been very difficult for Irish rugby to obtain down through the years. After all it’s believed that it was the Irish Times who first coined the term after Ireland completed the clean sweep of the Home Nations in 1894.
The mystique of this accomplishment was created by the fact that there was no tangible reward for beating the three other countries except the glory of victory. However, in 2006 a trophy was commissioned and a silver plate was designed with the four union crests engraved on it. Brian O’ Driscoll was the first captain to hold this silverware aloft when Ireland defeated England 28-24 in an epic battle to secure the Triple Crown back in 2006.
Four Triple Crowns in the last decade along with a Grand Slam have perhaps diluted the thrill of the feat. Irish players and fans wish and want more from the team in terms of championship and Grand Slam success. Although we can always take solace in fact that an Irish team attaining the Triple Crown means England will have been beaten.
In 1894, ‘Hurrah for Hibernia’ headlined Irish newspapers celebrating the country’s first ever Triple Crown and let’s hope that by 6pm on Saturday, Joe Schmidt’s men can give reason for the same headline to be re-written.
Five Great Irish Triple Crown Victories.
Ireland v Wales 1948– The game was played at Ravenhill and Ireland had not won a Triple Crown since 1899. With the scoreline reading 3-3, prop John Daly scored a try and famously remarked, “If Wales don’t score again I’ll be effing canonised”. Wales did not score and Ireland won their third Triple Crown and their first Grand Slam.
Ireland v England 1985– Lansdowne Road was the setting as Ireland chased the championship and the Triple Crown. Going into the last five minutes the match was poised at ten points apiece. Donal Lenihan charged forward and the ball was eventually passed to Michael Kiernan who drop-goaled to win the match, the Triple Crown and the Championship.
Ireland v Scotland 2004– Ireland set up a chance of winning their seventh Triple Crown with the victory of victories over England’s World Cup winning side who had won twenty two times consecutively at Twickenham. The game was a tense affair with Ireland leading 16-9 at half-time. Scotland then levelled with a try by Ally Hogg to send shivers down the spines of everyone at Lansdowne Road. But Ireland regrouped and scored three more tries to run out 37-16 winners and secure the Triple Crown for the first time in nineteen years.
England v Ireland 2006– With five minutes remaining and the scores favouring England 24-21, Ronan O’ Gara launched a daring attack off a scrum on his own twenty two. After a few frantic phases on the English touchline Shane Horgan needed every inch of his 6ft 4 inch frame to dot the ball down in the corner. The video referee confirmed the try and Ireland held on for a famous win at Twickenham and secured the Triple Crown.
Wales v Ireland 2009– The scenario was simple. It was a Triple Crown and Championship decider with Ireland also fighting for the Grand Slam. Wales had gone into the lead with five minutes remaining after a Stephen Jones drop goal but Jones then made a fatal mistake by kicking the ball out on the full. Ireland mauled the lineout deep into the Welsh twenty two. Peter Stringer whipped a pass out to Ronan O’ Gara who scooped his effort over the bar to give Ireland a slender 17-15 lead. However there was one final twist. Paddy Wallace gave away a penalty on the halfway line and as the clock ticked into the red, Jones stepped up to rob Ireland of a Triple Crown and Grand Slam. But the fly half’s penalty landed inches short and with that the nation rejoiced.
Pundit Arena, Matt Casssidy
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