Dancing D'Arcy sparks green party

Ireland 37 Scotland 16
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The Independent Online

Heroes old and new came to Dublin to herald the end of Ireland's 19-year wait for a Triple Crown. Most of the "give it a lash" side of 1985 were on hand, and even Jackie Kyle and Karl Mullen of the "golden era" of the late 1940s were here. After a few wobbles they all got what they wanted, and on a delirious lap of honour, Brian O'Driscoll's history men were lauded to the grey Dublin skies.

Heroes old and new came to Dublin to herald the end of Ireland's 19-year wait for a Triple Crown. Most of the "give it a lash" side of 1985 were on hand, and even Jackie Kyle and Karl Mullen of the "golden era" of the late 1940s were here. After a few wobbles they all got what they wanted, and on a delirious lap of honour, Brian O'Driscoll's history men were lauded to the grey Dublin skies.

O'Driscoll played magnificently in his still unfamiliar inside-centre's role, but the blond bombshell was in severe danger of being upstaged by his midfield mate, Gordon D'Arcy, who scored two of Ireland's five tries. Scotland offered more of a physical challenge than in their insipid defeats by Italy and France, but were still left last night to stir a bottom-placed broth with the wooden spoon, their first since 1994.

Try telling the revellers at Lansdowne Road that the crown has lost its lustre. This was the seventh of them in 130 years of trying for Ireland, which speaks of high rarity value alone, and, of course, there would have been a Grand Slam had they not lost to France in the Championship's opening match. Once Eddie O'Sullivan had caught his breath from celebrating with the masses - it was almost a mass, in fact, with the coach leading the hymns - he reflected on the essence of the achievement.

"It's just sinking in," O'Sullivan said, "We've been knocking on the door for a while, with England and France dominating. If we continue like this, hopefully we can get through. Our pack gave a great performance but we saw some superb back play too." The assessment was spot on. Ireland's forwards were unable to dominate to the extent that the 50-point margin needed to claim the whole Six Nations shooting match was never on. It was, indeed, a surprisingly close contest, until the Irish pulled away towards the end.

"It's a very proud moment for us all," said O'Driscoll. "The knowledge that we'll always have a Triple Crown to our names is very satisfying." Ireland had the stars in O'Driscoll, D'Arcy and the flankers Simon Easterby and David Wallace, the latter making a powerful statement on his recall after missing the World Cup. O'Driscoll appears to be taking it in turns with D'Arcy to wear the No 13 jersey. And if it is a superstitious act then it is working wonderfully well.

Ireland were approaching the stage of needing a boost to their confidence after a penalty apiece to Chris Paterson and Ronan O'Gara, when D'Arcy supplied it with a try after 18 minutes. Anthony Foley took a line-out two-handed at the tail and though O'Driscoll's pass to Girvan Dempsey looked forward, the full-back didn't hang around to check. He sent Shane Horgan inside and D'Arcy finished it off with a 20 metre run-in.

Scotland soon replied with a penalty by Paterson, but Ireland were in the mood to play. When Peter Stringer was man-handled on the wrong side of a ruck, O'Gara potted an easy three points - welcome relief for the fly-half, who had missed two easy-looking attempts.

Scotland, heading for their first whitewash since 1985, were in combative mood. O'Driscoll was late-tackled by Tom Philip, then had his head trampled on by Simon Webster, who was booed by the Irish supporters from that moment on. Fly-half Dan Parks dropped a goal from 40 metres to trim the Irish lead to 11-9. Home hearts were quickly lifted, though, with a second try through the backs. From a ruck in midfield, two miss-passes - O'Gara to O'Driscoll, and O'Driscoll to Geordan Murphy - put the latter in at the left-hand corner.

The Scots responded with some vigour early in the second half. Though Simon Taylor went off with what could be a bad knee ligament injury, his replacement at No 8, Jon Petrie, joined Jason White in running hard at the Irish half-backs and Scotland went through multiple phases before Allister Hogg was the final battering ram, claiming his first Test try. Paterson converted and at 16-all, Ireland's Crown was briefly all askew.

O'Gara might have gone for goal with the next Irish penalty. Instead he took the line-out option - and after a couple of charges were held Wallace pirouetted out of a double tackle for a rousing try which O'Gara converted. The crowd sang "Fields of Athenry" for all they were worth, perhaps knowing that Irish teams in other not-so-golden eras might have wilted as Scotland threatened to draw level again. Instead another Irish try 22 minutes into the second half did the trick. John Hayes bundled forward at a ruck, and Peter Stringer sniped through for the score which O'Gara converted. With seven minutes remaining O'Gara switched direction and D'Arcy crabbed from right to left, exchanged passes with Murphy and stormed over the line. A crowning moment, to be sure.

Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); S Horgan (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G Murphy (Leicester); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster), R Corrigan (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), S Byrne (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), S Easterby (Scarlets), A Foley (Munster), D Wallace (Munster). Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster) for Byrne, 79; M Horan (Munster) for Corrigan 61; D O'Callaghan (Munster) for O'Kelly 50-56, 79; V Costello (Leinster) for Wallace, 79; G Easterby (Rotherham) for Stringer, 79; D Humphreys (Ulster) for O'Gara, 79; K Maggs (Bath) for D'Arcy, 79.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh, capt); S Danielli (Bath), T Philip (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Webster (Edinburgh); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (The Borders); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (The Borders), S Murray (Edinburgh), S Grimes (Newcastle), J White (Sale), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh). Replacements: R Russell (Saracens) for Bulloch, 72; G Kerr (Leeds) for Jacobsen, 40, Jacobsen for Douglas, 72; N Hines (Edinburgh) for Grimes, 58; J Petrie (Glasgow) for Taylor, 42; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, 58; D Lee (Edinburgh) for Danielli, 77.

Referee: N Williams (Wales).

Tries: D'Arcy 2, Murphy, Wallace, Stringer Cons: O'Gara 3 Pens: O'Gara 2

Scotland 16

Try: Hogg Con: Paterson Pens: Paterson 2 Drop: Parks

Half-time: 16-9 Attendance: 42,750

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