Flashback: Ireland edge England at Croke Park

Date published: March 1 2017

In the latest edition of our series, we look back at this week in history and pick out a key moment from rugby’s archives.

This week we’re in Dublin back in 2009, when England travelled to Ireland in a pivotal Six Nations clash.

February 28, 2009

Anticipation of a first Irish Grand Slam was already building by the time 82,000 packed into Croke Park, where Ireland were playing whilst the old Lansdowne Road was being redeveloped into what we now refer to as the Aviva Stadium.

Rife with tension, ultimately this battle was decided by a single point in week three to give Ireland real momentum heading into the final matches against first Scotland and then that famous day in Cardiff.

Good wins over France and Italy in the first two weeks had given Ireland impetus while England’s Slam hopes were already in the bin, after defeat to Wales and the boot of their number ten Stephen Jones.

And so to Croker, where in front of a capacity crowd Ireland scrapped their way to victory despite an off day with the kicking tee from Ronan O’Gara, who only managed two of his six attempts at the posts.

While the conclusion might have been thrilling, the first half was anything but; littered with mistakes as both teams spluttered to a 3-3 half-time scoreline.

Having missed two attempts O’Gara finally made it third time lucky with his first penalty, before Toby Flood responded not long before the break.

O’Gara’s woes continued in the second half when his next attempt came back off the post, but left the stage ready for Ireland’s talisman Brian O’Driscoll to step up.

O’Driscoll landed an excellent drop goal, before England went down to 14 men after Phil Vickery was sin-binned for slowing down the ball at the ruck.

And after sustained Ireland pressure on England’s line it was O’Driscoll’s time again, diving low under England’s tacklers to score. Far from the most glamorous of his 47 Test tries, but one of the most important.

The conversion was missed, before Delon Armitage knocked over a penalty to make it 11-6 and keep Steve Borthwick’s England in the hunt.

Penalties however killed off England’s chances, a second yellow card this time for Danny Care after a late charge off the ball at the ruck earning the wrath of Martin Johnson in the stands.

O’Gara this time made no mistake, and although England crossed late on through Armitage, with Andy Goode converting, this was Ireland’s day, winning 14-13 to keep their Slam hopes alive.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Try: O’Driscoll
Pens: O’Gara 2
Drop Goal: O’Gara

For England:
Try: Armitage
Con: Goode
Pens: Flood, Armitage
Yellow Cards: Vickery, Care

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Tomás O’Leary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Donnacha O’Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Marcus Horan
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Tom Court, 18 Mick O’Driscoll, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Gordon D’Arcy, 22 Geordan Murphy

England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Joe Worsley, 6 James Haskell, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Andrew Sheridan
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Julian White, 18 Tom Croft, 19 Luke Narraway, 20 Danny Care, 21 Andy Goode, 22 Mathew Tait

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)