They couldn’t do it the easy way.
Despite enormous, heroic efforts, after 40 minutes of savage, caveman struggle, Ireland went in at half time six points down, and we frowned at each other glumly.
Not looking good.
Then, 3 minutes into the second half, after a clinically-worked movement, O Driscoll grounded the ball right on the line. Try. O Gara converted it and suddenly we were 7-6 ahead. Two minutes later, Tommy Bowe latched onto O Gara’s little chip behind the Welsh defence and sprinted for a try right between the posts. O Gara converted and it was 14-6 but it was never going to be easy. Two more Welsh penalties brought the score to 14-12, and when Jones dropped a goal with six minutes left on the clock, it looked as if the game might be slipping away. 15-14 to Wales. But then, with only three minutes left, O Gara dropped into the pocket and slotted a near perfect drop. Ireland ahead 17-15.
All we needed now was to keep our shape and our discipline and wind the clock down but it wasn’t going to be easy, and then, with 16 seconds to go, the referee awarded Wales a penalty to save the game. This would make it 18-15 in favour of Wales and it would be the final kick of the game.
Stephen Jones stepped up to take the kick and four million Irish people closed their eyes. In an unparallelled contest of telekinetic power, every living Welsh person willed the ball over the bar while every single Irish person willed it to fall short. This time the Irish got their way and Jones’s kick fell just short, breaking every Welsh heart in the world while across the water, Ireland went crazy.
The longest sixteen seconds I have ever seen, ending one of the finest games of rugby you’ll ever witness, a game that was a credit to both sides, and a game that either side could have taken.
Wales were powerful opponents but you wouldn’t have it any other way. This was how to win a Grand Slam in historic style, though I have to tell you, my nerves aren’t the best after watching it.