Mon, Mar 08, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Ireland shocks world champions


Ireland's Simon Easterby, center, wins a lineout against England during a Six Nations match at Twickenham, England, Saturday. Ireland upset England 19-13.


Ireland stunned World Cup winner England 19-13 at Twickenham and Italy outplayed Scotland 20-14 as the Six Nations rugby union championship was turned on its head Saturday.

While another Italian victory in the championship had been coming, Ireland's victory at the home of English rugby was the biggest Six Nations shock for several years.

Instead of headed for a predictable France versus England Grand Slam showdown, it looks like a three-way championship race.

Clive Woodward's team had won its previous 22 games at Twickenham and, even without injured Jonny Wilkinson and retired captain Martin Johnson, still looked far too good for its northern hemisphere rivals.

But what a time for England to produce its worst performance in five years under Woodward.

The forwards won only half of their own lineouts and rarely threatened the Irish throw. Although the team had two tries correctly disallowed, it scored just one from Matt Dawson.

"We had a very poor first half and only a marginally better second half," said England captain Lawrence Dallaglio. "They are not the standards we expect from this England team. We have got to take this defeat the right way and make sure we come back a much stronger team.

"But credit to Ireland. We mustn't take anything away from their performance. They came with belief. They showed that belief from the start of the game and thoroughly deserved their victory."

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said it was a great achievement to end England's winning streak at Twickenham and also to beat the World Cup winner.

"We were saying all week England have an outstanding record here but we felt it had to go at some stage and it could be ourselves to do it," the star center said.

"Belief was the big thing this week. It really is a huge performance from us."

Dawson's try put England 7-6 ahead and, when Paul Grayson's penalty stretched that lead to four points, it appeared to be business as usual at "headquarters."

But Ronan O'Gara kicked four penalties and a conversion to add to Girvan Dempsey's second half try as the Irish won for the first time in 10 years at Twickenham.

Now only France, which goes to Cardiff on Sunday to play Wales, can win the Grand Slam. Bernard Laporte's team also visits Scotland then finishes with a home game against England March 27.

Saturday's victory by Ireland has thrown the title race wide open, however.

Eddie O'Sullivan's team has home advantage and should be too strong for Italy when the meet at Lansdowne Road in two weeks time. The Irish also finish with a home game against the Scots and should finish with four victories.

Italy beat Scotland on its Six Nations debut at the same Stadio Flaminio four years ago and its only other triumph in the championship was on the same turf against Wales last season.

Having beaten the Scots again there's a good chance that John Kirwan's team will avoid finishing last for the second season in a row.

Like at Twickenham, the try score was 1-1 with Fabio Ongaro crossing the Scottish line and Simon Webster scoring a late reply with the game already lost.

South African-born fly half Roland De Marigny, who replaced New Zealand born Rima Wakarua for the game, kicked five penalties for the Italians while Scottish captain Chris Paterson made three for his team, which lies last with no points from three games.

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