Amid the controversy, O’Driscoll’s brilliance burns bright

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The Independent Online

Rugby union, and in particular the referee Jonathan Kaplan and touch judge Peter Allan, can only thank the heavens that neither Arsène Wenger nor Sir Alex Ferguson is the coach of Ireland. If either was and had witnessed the try which cost the Irish victory yesterday, a whinge and a rant would have been the least of it. They'd still be in tunnel now.



The incident in the 51st minute will long be replayed and who knows, considering the importance of the win, the ball boy who handed the ball to Matthew Rees, who very quickly and very illegally threw in to Mike Phillips to run in his 50-yarder, may well be located and ordained. As James Hook said: "We'll take it."

Too damn right they will. This would have been Wales's seventh home defeat in a row. Unthinkable in the Warren Gatland era. Instead they march to Paris with three wins from their last three matches, perhaps even with the Championship in their sights. It wouldn't have been wise to do so anyway, but don't anticipate too much cheering for England in Cardiff today.

In complete contrast, the visitors trudged away, vowing to bounce back. The grievance they carried over the Irish Sea was palpable. So much for the Millennium Stadium being their happiest hunting ground. After the glory of the Grand Slam in 2009 came the bitterness of 2011. Nobody bore the emotion on their face more starklythan Brian O'Driscoll. What should have been a memorable day for the Irish captain turned so sour. Only the foolish were daring last night to ask him about the history he had made. Not the time, definitely not the place.

But it should be noted because, as if it needed it, the legend of O'Driscoll now has at the very least a share of a coveted record to make it endure across the generations. For 78 years Scotland's Ian Smith has been on his own as this old tournament's leading try-scorer. No longer. He has been joined by the mortal they call Bod. He didn't have to wait long to touch down for the 24th time in the Championship. There was only a minute on the clock when he dived over. It was classic O'Driscoll bread and butter – not the caviar with which he introduced himself to the world in Paris 11 years ago, with that startling hat-trick.

As with all great players, O'Driscoll's image preceded him, helping to break the Welsh defence. Jamie Roberts had a ringside seat on the 2009 Lions tour to see the devastation his midfield partner could wreak. Fearing the old boy's pace and strength, the upstart stepped out of the line to steal an advantage. Wrong choice. Tommy Bowe exploited the gap, O'Driscoll burst through on Roberts' inside and thus the oldest record in the Championship was rewritten.

Surely, it is simply a matter of when O'Driscoll claims the mantle for himself, rather than if. What the Irish would give to toast a try-scoring, record-breaking, match-winning, (possibly) Grand Slam-stopping display against the English. Yet if Smith is expunged from the roll he will be remembered. In Wales, certainly. The wing once scored four tries in one Test. And such was the brilliance of the Flying Scotsman, his marker asked to be introduced him after the game. Poor Harold Davies from Newport hadn't got near him all match.

Of course, that is much more difficult in this ultra-tight modern age. Matches are won on the thinnest of threads, on the odd decision, the odd mistake. O'Driscoll and Ireland are the last people who need reminding of that.

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