RWC #22 - Brian O’Driscoll reaches for the corner against Australia

Ireland’s very own superman drags us so close to a famous victory back in 2003

Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland scores a try as he is tackled by Elton Flatley of Australia during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Australia and Ireland in 2003. Photograph: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland scores a try as he is tackled by Elton Flatley of Australia during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Australia and Ireland in 2003. Photograph: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

 

Ireland’s 2003 World Cup campaign got off to a fairly inconspicuous start, Eddie O’Sullivan’s side racking up 109 points and conceding just 24 as they eased past Romania and Namibia.

But those two fixtures were merely extra warm-up games as Ireland prepared for the real tests, games against Argentina and Australia which would shape the course of their tournament.

In what was effectively a must-win game at the Adelaide Oval Ireland did plenty of huffing and puffing before they finally squeezed past the Pumas, securing a place in the quarter-finals.

While both sides were already guaranteed a place in the tournament’s last eight ahead of Ireland’s final pool game against the hosts, the winner would receive a potential ticket to the the semi-finals with a favourable last eight fixture against Scotland.

As had always been the case against Australia in the World Cup Ireland were the underdogs, but in Melbourne they took the defending champions to the very brink.

Skipper George Gregan gave Australia the lead after 10 minutes with a drop-goal, before flanker George Smith extended the hosts lead. Ronan O’Gara got Ireland on the board but Elton Flatley had soon kicked his side into a 14-6 lead.

But then as the second half progressed the tide turned and Ireland forced their way back into the game with Brian O’Driscoll, as ever, the force of nature driving them on.

With 50 minutes on the clock the ball was recycled left from an Ireland scrum and came to O’Driscoll. He wasn’t far from the line but had an impossibly tight angle to it, with gold shirts flying across to cover.

With the gap closing O’Driscoll launched himself one armed, Ireland’s very own Superman, to touch down in the corner. The TMO took his time deciding, but it was a perfect score.

O’Gara converted before Flatley pulled Australia four clear. It was up to O’Driscoll again, this time slotting a drop-goal. But it wasn’t quite enough.

Like in Adelaide, a point was the difference, but this time Ireland were on the losing side. France were waiting in the quarter-finals.

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