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The Roar


The greatest days In Irish rugby history

Roar Guru
16th March, 2014

Guinness, potatoes, Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy and 2014 Six Nations champions. Who doesn’t like the Irish?

How appropriate that Brian O’Driscoll ends his brilliant career with a win in Paris, the scene of his greatest game fourteen years early.

March 16, 2014 – Ireland 22, France 20. Just Ireland’s third win in Paris since 1972 and the first since 2000.

Ireland: Six Nations champions for a twelfth time. Mark it down folks, it’s a great day in Irish rugby to add to an impressive honour roll.

19 February, 1881
Ireland played their first international against England in 1875 and were comprehensively beaten. In fact in their first 43 Tests, Ireland only won five times.

Their first victory was against Scotland in Ormeau, Belfast in 1881, with Ireland winning by 3-1.

In those days a drop goal had a greater value than a try, so Ireland won by virtue of a three-point drop goal to John Bagot. Scotland scored the only try of the game via their captain James Graham.

Ireland’s players were made to pay for the after-match feed because the union had so little money.

Despite little success in the early days, Ireland produced two of the most interesting characters to play international rugby.


Thomas Gordon, who won three caps from 1877-1878, played rugby with one hand. He lost his right hand in a shooting accident as a youngster.

Dolway Walkington, who played eight Tests from 1887-1891, was so short-sighted he wore a monocle on his right eye. He captained his country three times and his brother Robert was also an international and later President of the Irish Rugby Union.

13 March, 1948 v Wales
Ireland won their first Triple Crown in 1894 and repeated that success in 1899, but after 1899 they had to wait almost 50 years for a similar triumph.

In 1948, Ireland faced Wales in the last game of the Five Nations with a Grand Slam at stake.

Scores were tied at three-apiece with ten minutes remaining after tries by Barney Mullen for Ireland and Bleddyn Williams for Wales.

Wales then fumbled the ball from a lineout inside their own half and prop John Daily charged about 25-metres to score the winning try. Irish supporters were so jubilant at full-time that they invaded the pitch and tore the shirt off Daily’s back.

In 1949, Ireland won the Triple Crown. Ireland’s first-five from 1946-1958 was Jack Kyle, who in 2002 was named by the IRU as Ireland’s player of the century.

Kyle’s tactical nous and brilliant running and passing game were often the reasons attributed to Ireland’s success.


10 April, 1965 v South Africa
Ireland recorded their first ever win over South Africa at Lansdowne Road in front of 30,000 fans. The match was heading for a draw, with the score at six points each, until Ireland won a penalty which Tom Kiernan duly kicked.

Earlier, winger Paddy McGrath scored the only try of the match. Kiernan represented Ireland 54 times and at the time of his retirement in 1973 was his country leading points scorer with 158 points.

May 13, 1967 v Australia
At the Sydney Cricket Ground, Ireland became the first of the home nations to win in the Southern Hemisphere when they beat Australia for a fourth time in a row.

Australia entered the match as favourites after Ireland were thumped 21-9 by New South Wales, but a contentions converted try to Jerry Walsh had Ireland 5-0 ahead at half-time.

Tom Kiernan extended the lead with a drop goal early in the second half, before Australian halfback Ken Catchpole was awarded a controversial try.

At 8-5, Australia were pressing but a mistake in mid-field allowed Paddy McGrath to swoop and score.

Earlier, Mike Gibson had retreated nearly 70 metres to tackle debutant Hugh Rose and stop a certain Australia try. The tackle is regarded as one of the great tackles in rugby history.

January 20, 1973 v All Blacks
Ireland has never beaten the All Blacks but they came mighty close in 1973. Playing into a stiff second-half breeze and down 10-6, the following incident occurred in extra time as described by a newspaper at the time.


“Ireland scored a great try as wing Tom Grace chipped the ball ahead and won the race for the line scoring wide on the right at the Havelock Square end. McGann’s conversion seemed to be on target but was caught by a gust of wind and the ball drifted narrowly wide.”

Grace toured South Africa with the Lions in 1974. Goal kicker Barry McGann played 25 Tests and earlier in his life had marked Johan Cryffe in an age-group football international.

The only Irish team to defeat the All Blacks was Munster on Tuesday 31 October, 1978. In front of a crowd of 12,000 at Thomond Park, Christy Cantillton scored a try and Tony Ward kicked a conversion and two drop goals.

All Black Stu Wilson latter quipped, “We were lucky to get nil.”

Munster’s win became the subject of a play, Alone It Stands!

30 March, 1985 v England
Writing for the Glasgow Herald, Bill McLaren descried this contest as “an error strewn-match of dramatic intensity”.

Tied 10-all with only seconds left, Michael Kiernan won the game with a drop goal that eventually earned a Triple Crown and second Five Nations title in four years for Ireland.

England were earlier denied a try which could have won them the game when No. 8 Bob Hesford muscled over, only to be recalled for receiving a forward pass.


Brendan Mullin (17 tries in 56 Tests) scored Ireland’s only try of the match.

Michael Kiernan had 43 caps for Ireland, from 1982 to 1991, scoring six tries, 40 conversions, 62 penalties and six drop goals – none better than his snap against England!

24th February, 2007 v England
In the first match between Ireland and England at Croke Park, the home of Gaelic sports, Ireland thrashed England by a record 43-13 score in front of 83,000 people.

Three Ronan O’Gara penalties edged the hosts into a 9-3 lead before tries from Girvan Dempsey and David Wallace gave them a 23-3 lead at the break.

A try from debutant David Strettle helped England cut the gap to 26-13 early in the second half. But Shane Horgan and Isaac Boss added further tries as Ireland claimed their record win.

The 30-point margin smashed Ireland’s all-time record winning margin of 22-0 against England in 1947.

England, meanwhile, conceded their highest points tally in a Five or Six Nations match, surpassing the 37 they conceded in a 25-point defeat to France in 1972.

21st March, 2009 v Wales
When Stephen Jones missed a last-minute penalty for Wales against Ireland in Cardiff in 2009, it confirmed Ireland’s first Grand Slam in 61 years.


In a cracking match, played in front of 74,625 spectators, Ireland scored the only tries of the contest to Brain O’Driscoll and Tommy Bowe, but were punished for ill-discipline.

Jones kept Wales in touch with four penalties and a 76th-minute drop goal to push Wales 15-14 ahead. Two minutes later, Ronan O’Gara kicked a drop goal for Ireland to make it 17-15.

17th September, 2011 v Australia
During the 2011 World Cup, Ireland sent Auckland’s Eden Park into a frenzy when they upset Australia by 15-6 in a pool game.

An inspired forward effort, led by prop and man of the match Cian Healy and lock Paul O’Connell, paved the way for a famous win.

The match was played in driving rain and featured no tries, but a drop goal and two penalties for Johnny Sexton and two penalties for Ronan O’Gara.

Australia spent long periods hammering away at the Irish goal-line and victory was only sealed for Ireland in the last couple of minutes when winger Tommy Bowe snatched an intercept and ran 90 metres, only to be dramatically tackled by James O’Connor.