Balls Remembers: The Try That Started The Golden Era Of Irish Rugby

Balls Remembers: The Try That Started The Golden Era Of Irish Rugby

Reflecting on the last eleven years of success for Irish rugby, it can all come down to one try - Girvan Dempsey's against England in 2004.

It wasn't meant to have worked out this way. England, the world champions, were meant to steamroll over poor Ireland.

The previous two meetings between the two sides were heavy victories for England, 45-11 and 42-6 had all but wiped out the famous 2001 victory.

England had destroyed Italy (9-50), and Scotland (15-35) in their first two away games, while Ireland had suffered another loss to France in the opening game of the Championship. The world champions were unbeaten at home for four years.

No one gave Ireland a hope.

Ireland started well, but some strange decisions, like cross kicking for tighthead prop John Hayes to chase, meant they didn't cross the whitewash. Four O'Gara penalties had them ahead in a close contest 12-10 at half time.

Matt Dawson had kept England in the game with a breakaway try from a scrum turnover, and they looked like they were going to go ahead when Ben Cohen touched down in the corner. The Video referee disallowed the try however after double movement.


Then the try that launched Ireland's Golden Era in rugby. The try that brought the World Champions England crashing down so that they wouldn't taste victory over Ireland until 2008. England would not finish ahead of Ireland in the Six Nations until that year.

It was the try that kickstarted the first Irish triple crown win since 1985. The move started inside Ireland's half with a maul. When D'Arcy gets the ball ten metres back from the halfway line there are no runners off him, and it's down to some dazzling footwork that he's able to break the line. Three Englishmen combine to take D'Arcy down just before the 22, but he's able to get the ball off quickly to Stringer who feeds Tyrone Howe bringing the ball inside the English 22.

The ball is transferred wide quickly, with Keith Gleeson picking up O'Gara's skip pass before feeding Horgan who makes gains into the English territory, before a switch to Malcolm O'Kelly who powers on, offloading to Axel Foley who falls down two metres from the line in the right corner. Stringer falls over trying to get to the ruck, while England are able to slow the ball down.

A long ball from Stringer to D'Arcy cuts out several narrow English defenders, before D'Arcy throws another wide pass to O'Driscoll. O'Driscoll turns and skips several Irish players before passing to Tyrone Howe in space on the wing. Howe has only one player outside him, and releases Girvan Dempsey to slide in the left corner, despite the efforts of Ben Cohen.

That try and subsequent victory proved to the Irish players that they could compete with the best. It sparked a period of unprecedented success for Irish Rugby, starting immediately with a Triple Crown and the conversion of eight year olds at the time into rugby fans, leading to the high quality of the young players coming through at the moment.

In the meantime, the Ireland team had a long way to go, with each stage of their journey identifiable through their victories over England.

Girvan Dempsey's try started them on this journey.

See Also: Balls Remembers: The Day We Demolished England And The Bull Hayes Was Moved To Tears

Photo Credit Matt Browne & Brendan Moran/ Sportsfile

Conor O'Leary
Article written by
"That's what." - She.

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