A late Ronan O’Gara drop goal secured a 17-15 victory, the Grand Slam, the Triple Crown and the Six Nations title.
The first half was typically brutal, with both teams relentless in the collision. Unfortunately for the capacity crowd, the skill level never matched the intensity. Ireland dominated territory but it was Wales that went to the break 6-0 up. Ireland had the opportunities, but failed to capitalise.
The crowd was woken from its slumber in the second half, but it was cries of frustration that filled the Millennium Stadium stands. Brian O’Driscoll crossed from close range to snatch the lead, and Tommy Bowe scored the second moments later as Ireland began to dominate.
Stephen Jones kicked his third penalty to narrow the deficit to five points after 50 minutes. Five minutes later, Jones nailed his fourth to take the score to 14-12.
Ireland never pushed home their advantage despite numerous chances. Bumbling in the Welsh 22 was exacerbated by indecision. The Irish should have won this fixture easily, and would have had themselves to blame had they let the game slip.
With time running out, Wales never pushed for the win by 13 points – a feat that would have handed them the title. Gavin Henson shot for goal with 13 minutes remaining, an attempt that fell well short. The British newspapers will hail this as a classic final, but it was as inspiring and exciting as the British seaside. Compared to the southern-hemisphere equivalent, it was desperately wanting.
Wales had a late chance to win the game but Jones’s penalty shot dropped under the crossbar. Ireland deserved to win, and although the hosts will be hurting, they certainly can’t claim the same.
By Jon Cardinelli