Ireland 46 Italy 7 match report: Brian O'Driscoll stars as he says farewell to Dublin faithful
Centre dominates as Ireland run riot to close in on the championship
Saturday 08 March 2014
A man-of-the-match performance from Brian O’Driscoll on the day his 140th Test cap set a new world record sent Ireland headed for Paris with the Six Nations title at their mercy.
It was an occasion and contest dominated by the talismanic centre where the seven tries and 46 points racked up by Ireland proved that Italy were merely extras in a clinical performance.
In three games at Aviva Stadium so far in this championship against Scotland, Wales and now Italy the home team have scored 100 points and go to Paris where a victory will earn Ireland only their second championship title since the tournament was increased to six teams.
After this result their points difference of 81 is surely unassailable regardless of what England, Wales or France can achieve in this round of fixtures.
It took just six minutes for O’Driscoll to throw his first dash of class into the mix. A muscular start from Ireland had seen their maul trouble the Italians before the push in the first scrum delivered a sharp shot to the jaw.
With the defence on the back foot Johnny Sexton combined on a wonderful loop with O’Driscoll, who sucked in two tacklers, before returning a no-look pop pass to the fly-half, who steamed towards the Italian line to open the scoring. After that Ireland began to look a little passive in defence which allowed Leonardo Sarto to escape the clutches of Rob Kearney to level the score just before the half hour.
Ireland’s reply was instant with Sexton knocking over a penalty to lead 10-7 on the half hour.
Then O’Driscoll, as he has done throughout his career, sprinkled stardust on the encounter as Ireland attacked inside the Italian 22. With a blue wall closing in around from 10 metres out O’D riscoll dummied the first defender and then produced a pass which was part shovel, part sleight of hand to bamboozle two would-be tacklers and put Andrew Trimble in for Ireland’s second try.
That score knocked the stuffing out of the Italians and with the second half 12 minutes old Cian Healy barged over from a yard out after Eoin Reddan’s quick-tap penalty to put Ireland into a commanding 22-7 lead.
Having set up two tries O’Driscoll was then the inspiration for his side’s fourth.
The centre moved with a balance belying his 35 years and speeding in from the Italian 10-metre line the four-times Lions tourist ghosted inside the shoulder of Robert Barbieri and then offloaded out of Leonardo Ghiraldini’s tackle. From there Rob Kearney and Gordon D’Arcy’s fingertips ensured Sexton would claim his second try.
The floodgates were well and truly open leading Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath all to cross over. All that was left was for O’Driscoll, replaced on 63 minutes to a standing ovation, to salute the crowd after the final whistle. With his final game in Dublin at an end, chants of “one more year” and the tones of The Fields of Athenry rang out around Lansdowne Road as one of the world’s greatest players bowed out with the crowd on their feet.
Next weekend he will depart the Test stage for good, on this from he will be taking some silverware with him.
Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, B O’Driscoll (F McFadden, 63), G D’Arcy, D Kearney; J Sexton (P Jackson, 64), C Murray (E Reddan, 17); C Healy (J McGrath, 55), R Best (S Cronin, 55), M Ross (M Moore, 57); D Toner, P O’Connell (capt); I Henderson (R Ruddock, 55), C Henry (J Murphy, 74), J Heaslip.
Italy: L McLean; A Esposito (A Masi, 64), M Campagnaro, G Garcia, L Sarto; L Orquera (T Allan, 64), T Tebaldi (E Gori, 71); A De Marchi (M Rizzo, 57), L Ghiraldini (D Giazzon, 71), M Castrogiovanni (L Cittadini, 7; De Marchi, 71); Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami (A Pavenello, 64), J Furno, P Derbyshire (M Vosawai, 57), R Barbieri
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
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