Six more of the best: By the best
March 2nd, 2002 : (6N) Ireland 43 Scotland 22 (3 tries, Lansdowne Road).His “other” international hat-trick remains somewhat dwarfed in folklore by his first in Paris, but by now he had established himself as possibly the best player in the world after his Waltzing O’Driscoll turn on the Lions tour in Oz in 2001.
And this was arguably classier. He scored his first off a scrum without a finger being laid on him, put Shane Horgan over for Ireland’s second and then ran almost 80 metres off a turnover for his second and tagged on his third near the end when again scampering through a porous Scottish midfield off a miss pass . He was unstoppable.
Nov 9th, 2002: (Test) Ireland 18 Australia 9 (Lansdowne Road).
This historic win over the reigning world champions was largely down to the boot of Ronan O’Gara, who landed six penalties from six attempts on a muddy day in Dublin. But few wins will have given O’Driscoll, excellent on the day, more satisfaction, given it was the then 22-year-old’s first outing as Ireland captain.
Feb 27th, 2005: (6N) Ireland 19 England 13 (1 try, Lansdowne Road).
On a blustery, dry day , two drop goals and two penalties by O’Gara gave the home side a 12-10 interval lead after a ferocious Irish opening in front of a fired-up crowd, before a Charlie Hodgson drop goal put England back in front. Ireland responded by going upfield immediately, sharp handling by the backs and a clever dummy by Geordan Murphy enabling O’Driscoll – outstanding on his return after missing the win in Murrayfield with a hamstring strain – to dance on a veritable tightrope along the right touchline before narrowing the angle in the in-goal area to ensure the lead changed hands for a fourth and final time. Alas, ensuing defeats to France and Wales saw the latter claim the Grand Slam.
Feb 24th, 2007: (6N) Ireland 43 England 13 (Croke Park).
Having cut a frustrated figure in the stand for the first game in Croke Park a fortnight earlier , the captain was back to put England to the sword. O’Driscoll didn’t decorate the scoreboard but he was his usual inspiring self on this day of days and few games in his career will have given him as much satisfaction.
Feb 28th, 2009: (6N) Ireland 14 England 13 (Croke Park).
No game more underlined Paul O’Connell’s assertion that not only is O’Driscoll Ireland’s go-to- man but, unusually for a gamebreaker, is also the first team-mate you’d have in the trenches alongside you.
The three-all interval scoreline scarcely reflected Ireland’s first-half supremacy and when O’Connell and O’Gara opted for the corner as O’Driscoll lay pole-axed following a late shoulder charge, the captain regathered his senses to join in the ensuing siege and burrow over for his third try in the third leg of Ireland’s Grand Slam.
With O’Gara’s radar for once off kilter, man-of-the-match O’Driscoll also had the presence of mind to land an ensuing drop goal for an 11-3 lead which was threatened late on. Talk about responding in your country’s hour of need.
March 19th, 2011: (6N) Ireland 24 England 8 (Lansdowne Road).
Dominant up front from the first scrum, with Jonny Sexton master of all he surveyed, O’Driscoll again led by example as Ireland derailed England’s Grand Slam bid on the final weekend of the championship – albeit leaving Ireland with a feeling of what might have been after earlier defeats to France and Wales. Exactly 11 years ago to the day since that famous hat-trick in Paris, scored his 25th Six Nations try to eclipse Ian Smith’s Championship record from 1933. Aside from everything else, he also has a good script writer.