World Cup heartbreak for Murphy

Scotland 10 Ireland 29
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The Independent Online

Eddie O'Sullivan happens to be known as "the dagger" - some say because of the sharpness with which he operates, others because of the cutting edge he displayed in front of goal as a teenage five-a-side player. Whatever the reason, the Ireland coach suffered a piercing blow right to the heart of his World Cup preparations as he watched his team from the west stand at Murrayfield yesterday.

What ought to have been a final run through the paces before the trip to Australia turned into a nightmare for O'Sullivan and for poor Geordan Murphy. The twin-tackle the Leicester full-back took from Mike Blair and Andy Craig on the halfway line just before 20 minutes had passed seemed innocuous enough, but hitting the turf the 25-year-old took serious damage to his left leg and was carried off. A compound fracture of the tibia was later diagnosed.

It was a cruel blow for the young man Dean Richards dubbed the "George Best of rugby." The George Best of football never made it to the round-ball World Cup stage and Murphy, who turned down a contract from West Bromwich Albion in his multi-talented youth, will not be making it to this year's rugby version. "I think it's tragic for Geordan, because the World Cup was cut for him," a grim-faced O'Sullivan lamented. "I believe he could have been the star of the World Cup - on the hard grounds, with his speed, agility and distribution. He's a world class player.

"It's sad for the team but more so for Geordan. World Cups come once every four years and a guy at the peak of his game suffers a serious injury like that. It's just fate. It just shows us how cruel professional sport can be." It came as a cruel blow to O'Sullivan, too, following Rob Henderson's torn bicep in the Celtic League on Friday night. Like Murphy, the burly centre will be missing from the 30-man squad the Ireland coach announces in Dublin this morning. In the circumstances, it was just as well that the jewel in the Irish crown, Brian O'Driscoll, emerged intact yesterday, despite three times having treatment to a damaged shoulder - and that the equally totemic Keith Wood, in the second match of his international comeback, suffered nothing more serious than bruising when Marcus Horan stood on his left hand seven minutes into the second half. Ronan O'Gara came through unscathed, too, although a little rusty in his first match back after a wrist fracture in Tonga in June.

It seemed almost incidental, amid the casualty check, that Ireland won at Murrayfield for the second time in five months and only the second time in 18 years. They won comfortably, too, out-scoring the Scots by four tries to one, Denis Hickie extending his Irish record tally to 20 and Anthony Horgan claiming his first Test try, in between scores by Kevin Maggs and David Wallace. The only consolation for a Scotland side weakened by the absence of several key players - Bryan Redpath, Scott Murray, Tom Smith, Bruce Douglas and Jason White - was a late try by debutant wing Simon Webster, who replaced Glenn Metcalfe.

The great frustrations for Ian McGeechan - in his last Murrayfield match as Scotland coach - were that his players failed to make the most of their first-half possession and that Welsh referee Nigel Whitehouse, did not call for a video replay when Andrew Mower burrowed over from a ruck in first-half injury-time. Mr Whitehouse ruled that the Australian-born flanker had knocked on, a verdict the replay did not support. It left Ireland 10-3 up at the interval, Maggs having made the breakthrough with a crash ball take from O'Gara in the 37th minute. It was all downhill for the Scots in the second half, Hickie screeching over in the left corner, Horgan scoring on the right - courtesy of O'Driscoll's brilliant gather and feed from an O'Gara garryowen - and Wallace racing through on the left after another slick feed from O'Driscoll. Webster's score, with two minutes remaining, was a mere morsel of comfort for the Scots.

Scotland 10 Ireland 29
Try: Webster; Tries: Maggs, Hickie
Con: Paterson; Horgan, Wallace
Pen: Paterson; Cons: O'Gara 3
Pen: O'Gara

Half-time: 3-10 Attendance: 36,560

Scotland: G Metcalfe (Glasgow); C Paterson (Edinburgh), A Craig (Orrell), A Henderson (Glasgow), K Logan (Wasps); G Ross (Leeds Tykes), M Blair (Edinburgh), A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), G Bulloch (Glasgow), G McIlwham (unattached), S Grimes (Newcastle), N Hines (Edinburgh), R Beattie (Gwent Dragons), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Mower (Newcastle). Replacements: S Webster (Edinburgh) for Metcalfe h-t; M Proudfoot (Glasgow) for McIlwham, 61; J Petrie (Glasgow) for Beattie, 61; J McLaren (Bayonne) for Henderson, 61; R Russell (Saracens) for Bulloch, 67.

Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); A Horgan (Munster), B O'Driscoll, K Maggs (Bath), D Hickie (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); M Horan (Munster), K Wood (Munster, capt), R Corrigan (Leinster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), D Wallace (Munster), E Miller (Leinster), V Costello (Leinster). Replacements: G Dempsey (Leinster) for Murphy, 23; K Dawson (London Irish) for Miller, 67; G Easterby (Rotherham) for Stringer, 76; S Easterby (Llanelli) for O'Connell 76; S Best (Ulster) for Corrigan, 76; D Humphreys (Ulster) for O'Driscoll, 76; S Byrne (Leinster) for Wood, 77.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales).

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