On This Day: Ireland clinch second Grand Slam in Wales

When Rory Best lifted the trophy and Ireland were crowned Grand Slam champions at Twickenham last weekend, it ended nine years of waiting between their second and third clean sweeps.

When Rory Best lifted the trophy and Ireland were crowned Grand Slam champions at Twickenham last weekend, it ended nine years of waiting between their second and third clean sweeps.

But that is a drop in the ocean compared to the 61 years that the Emerald Isle had to endure between their first and second.

Click here for the final 2018 NatWest 6 Nations table

Ahead of the 2009 Championship, Ireland was a country desperate to make right on the promise of their golden generation.

The likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell had lifted Ireland to three Triple Crowns in four years under Eddie O’Sullivan but France had proved their nemesis.

But in 2009, with Declan Kidney now in charge, that was all set to change – even if it did go down to the wire.   Setting the scene   Fourth in the 2008 Championship, Ireland arrived in 2009 ready to set the record straight with Kidney bringing his golden touch from Munster to bear.

They downed France in their opener, so often their conquerors in this generation, to kick start the campaign. Italy were put to the sword in round two before England arrived with a point to prove at Croke Park.

But it was captain fantastic O’Driscoll who did the damage with their only try in a narrow 14-13 win and suddenly Ireland could dare to dream.

Round four saw Scotland edged out 22-15, Jamie Heaslip the hero this time with the try and all eyes turned to Cardiff and the decider.

Wales, Grand Slammers the year before, could still take the title by beating Ireland by a 13-point margin.

And with the great Jackie Kyle, captain of that first Ireland team to win it all back in 1948, in the crowd – Ireland held their nerve, just.   How the action unfolded   In an edgy first half, Ireland failed to make the most of their territorial dominance and it was the boot of Stephen Jones that separated the two sides.

The Wales fly-half, who had a big role to play, kicked two penalties and the hosts led 6-0 at the interval.

But the Irish came roaring out of the traps in the second period and when Tommy Bowe and O’Driscoll both went over, the damage appeared to be done.

But back came Wales, as the boot of Jones kept them in touch and then, with only five minutes remaining, the fly-half landed a drop goal and Wales were in front 15-14.

But Ireland summoned one last response when O’Gara dropped for glory from a bullet Peter Stringer pass.

Surely that was it and the Grand Slam secured? Not just yet as, with the clock in the red, Jones lined up a long-range penalty that would break Irish hearts.

But it fell short despite every Welsh fan in the stadium willing it to reach, and when Geordan Murphy booted the ball into the stands – Ireland could really celebrate.   What they said   Brian O’Driscoll:

“To go down to the end, it would have broken my heart.

“I’m so proud of the boys. We took a lot of flak over the last 18 months but to be champions – I’m delighted.”   Ronan O’Gara:

“It’s so unfair the pressure all comes down to the kickers.

“I just wanted to console with him and congratulate him on a good game. I know Stephen well enough that I might get my shirt back for a few quid!”

Declan Kidney:

“This is all due to the groundwork done by Eddie (O’Sullivan) and all the coaching team, and all that’s done in the provinces, and more so in the schools, as they’re the ones who enrich the kids.

“Brian (O’Driscoll) would say this is far from a one-man team – we have 30-odd people who make this team.

“After 80 minutes, you take what’s there – some days it swings for you, some it doesn’t.”   What happened next?   Ireland celebrated long into the night, as they richly deserved.

And there was more glory to come for Ireland, as O’Connell was named to captain the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa that summer.

14 of those Irish Grand Slammers in all made the touring party that came so close to downing the world champion Springboks.

Ireland would have to wait until 2014 to lift the trophy again, and then in 2018 – with Joe Schmidt at the helm – a third Grand Slam arrived in glorious fashion at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day.