O'Gara saves Irish in Rome
Last ditch drop-goal denies Italy historic Six Nations win
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 05/02/11 5:08pm
Ireland's Paul O'Connell
Ronan O'Gara saved Ireland's blushes with a last ditch drop-goal to give his side a narrow 13-11 victory over Italy in their Six Nations encounter in Rome on Saturday.
Skipper Brian O'Driscoll had earlier come to the rescue with a try three minutes into the second half after the Irish found themselves trailing 6-3 at the interval.
And when Italy full-back Luke McClean wrested back the lead with just five minutes to go it looked like Italy were heading for a historic victory at the Stadio Flaminio.
But O'Gara stepped up with just two minutes left to slot a three pointer and break Italian hearts.
The hosts began brightly, and after six minutes they were rewarded when Mirco Bergamasco opened his side's account with a well-struck penalty after Ireland were penalised at the breakdown.
It took Ireland a further 20 minutes to put their first points on the board, Jonathan Sexton slotting a simple penalty to make it three apiece when Italy were caught with their hands in at the ruck.
The Irish looked as though they might begin to take control of the game but Italy continued to put in the big tackles where it mattered and deny the visitors a way through.
The hosts continued to create point-scoring opportunities too, but Bergamasco missed the chance to nudge his side back in front on the half hour when he sent a penalty attempt narrowly wide.
The Italian kicker made no mistake on the stroke of half time though, drilling another through the uprights to take his side into the break with a three-point lead.
Ireland began the second half in determined fashion as they sought to overturn their hosts' advantage.
Their try came just three minutes after the restart, O'Driscoll diving over when the Irish worked the ball wide after a couple of phases of possession in the Italian 22. Sexton added the extras to make it 10-6.
The Irish continued to grow in confidence and, as they turned the screws on their hosts, began to find more space on the flanks.
But still they could not find a way through and as the game moved into the final 10 minutes it was the Italians who began to build up the pressure.
Ireland lost flanker Denis Leamy to the sin bin on 71 minutes when he was penalised for putting his hands into the ruck.
And as Italy sought to press home their man advantage, great work by the forwards twice took them close to the Irish line.
With just five minutes to go the pressure finally paid off when the Italians spread the ball quickly wide and McLean crossed for a classy try to make it 11-10.
Bergamasco missed the conversion but the try had sent the Azzurri faithful wild and the Eternal City looked set for a night of celebrations.
But, with just two minutes to go, O'Gara silenced the Italian crowd's cheers with a fantastic drop-goal to sneak a scarcely-deserved victory for his country.