Ireland crowned Grand Slam champs
Ireland capture first Six Nations Grand Slam for 61 years beating Wales 17-15.
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2009 21:29 GMT

Ronan O'Gara drops the crucial goal to secure the win [AFP]
Ireland defeated Wales 17-15 in a game of dramatic and escalating tension at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to win their first Six Nations grand slam since 1948.

Flyhalf Ronan O'Gara dropped the winning goal three minutes from time after captain Brian O'Driscoll and right wing Tommy Bowe had scored tries in quick succession to put Ireland 14-6 ahead early in the second half.

England's 26-12 win over Scotland at Twickenham gave them second place with France third following a 50-8 victory over Italy in Rome.

Wales, the 2008 grand slam champions, ended up in fourth though equal on points with England and France.

Close game

Flyhalf Stephen Jones, who kicked all the Welsh points and the only scores of the first half, kept Wales in contention with two nerveless penalties in the second and Gavin Henson failed with an ambitious attempt from halfway.

Five minutes from time, Jones brought the home fans in the packed stadium to their feet with a dropped goal which soared between the posts to give Wales a one-point margin.

But Ireland were not to be denied. They surged back into the Welsh half, set up the ruck and O'Gara, gesturing frantically for the ball, dropped the most important goal of his illustrious career.

"This is everybody's dream...I'm just delighted for everyone involved," Ireland's coach Declan Kidney said after the game on Saturday.

After the week-long build-up, both teams were understandably nervous on a warm, spring afternoon and the first half was riddled with errors, turnovers and a host of indifferent kicking from hand.

Man of the match Brian O'Driscoll runs down the Wales defence [GALLO/GETTY]
Crucial penalty

Jones finally broke the deadlock with a penalty in the 32nd minute when replacement flanker Denis Leamy was penalised inside the 22 for not rolling away from the ball.

The Welsh flyhalf was successful with a second long-range penalty two minutes from halftime after wing Luke Fitzgerald got in the way of a defender and was penalised for shepherding.

Ireland were a different side after the break. Bowe shot down the right wing in the opening minute, the ball went left and from the lineout Ireland launched a series of pick-and-drives.

The unstoppable O'Driscoll, voted man of the match, finally barged over for his fourth try of the tournament, awarded after a long wait while the television match official examined the video.

Two minutes later Bowe, who had an outstanding game, raced on to a deft O'Gara kick to seize the ball and race between the posts to score.

Irish momentum

Although Wales had their late chances, notably when scrumhalf Mike Phillips skipped through a series of tackles before being dragged down near the line, the force was with Ireland.

Jones was just short with a penalty in the final minute.

"I thought we had lost it. He (Jones) was looking at it and getting excited but it dropped short and we just went bananas.

It was brilliant," Ireland lock Paul O'Connell was quoted as saying on the Irish union website.

Ireland's army of supporters celebrated joyously after the final whistle.

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