RWC #7: Michael Lynagh breaks Irish hearts

Wallabies bounce back after Gordon Hamilton’s late try to reach 1991 semi-finals

Philip Matthews can’t stop  Michael Lynagh scoring the winning try in the 1991 World Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road. Photograph: Inpho

Philip Matthews can’t stop Michael Lynagh scoring the winning try in the 1991 World Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road. Photograph: Inpho

 

The best teams in any sport are the ones who never know when they are beaten.

For them, the clock seems to tick on that little bit longer and for the team trying to hold out against them minutes turn into hours.

When Gordon Hamilton had charged past David Campese into the corner to score at the death for Ireland with five minutes to go in the 1991 quarter-finals and send Lansdowne Road delirious, it looked for all the world their place in the last four of the World Cup was secure.  

An emotional wave had swept through the grand old ground as Ireland were on the brink of securing one of their most famous wins and one of the game’s greatest ever upsets.

But unfortunately for Ciaran Fitzgerald and his charges Australia had no room for sentiment and for them the game was far from over.

By the time the replays of the try had stopped on television Ireland had failed to clear their lines and Australia had a lineout on the Irish 22. Eales claimed the ball and it was moved right, Campese scampered back inside and a scrum was awarded with the Ireland line within sniffing distance.

Michael Lynagh, captaining the side with Nick Farr-Jones off the pitch, called a training ground set piece. The ball moved smoothly along the Wallaby back line to Campese who had moved infield to collect Jason Little’s pass and arc his run towards the line and his hat-trick.

Campese is tackled desperately short but the ball spills back and there is Lynagh, who else, to run gratefully onto the scraps and force his way over the line.

From being out of the World Cup moments earlier Australia were now in the semi-finals. Irish hearts were broken, the Wallabies were still alive.

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