O’Gara drop saves Ireland the blushes in Italy

Ronan O’Gara snatched an 11-13 victory for Ireland against Italy with two minutes left on the clock with a drop-goal in Rome.

Ireland were reduced to 14 men in the closing stages of the match which sparked Italy into action.

Italy scored a crucial try with three minutes remaining on the clock but Mirco Bergamasco missed the conversion.

Ireland responded by running the ball into Italy’s half and O’Gara sent over a match winning drop goal.

Italy looked to have snatched a famous victory five minutes from time as Luke
McLean touched over to give the hosts a one-point lead with Ireland down to
14 men following Denis Leamy’s sin-binning.

However Ireland responded immediately, with substitute O’Gara kicking a late
drop which broke Italian hearts and ended any premature celebrations.

“The longer they stayed in the game the more of a threat they were going
to be,” said Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll.

“We didn’t kill them off and then we spilled the ball five metres out.
You can’t have those sort of mistakes in Test rugby. You don’t get away with

“But it was a great result to be able to come back from that. We needed
a drop goal in the last few minutes and we got it from Ronan.”

Italy’s South African coach Nick Mallett felt it was Ireland’s experience that
told in the end.

“I don’t want to talk about individual mistakes, Ireland managed the last
five minutes better than us,” he said.

“We lost the kick-off and that allowed them to go through three phases
and set up the drop.

“We lacked patience in the last action of the game, their forwards were
tired. It was difficult to tackle and we had to keep the ball for longer.

“It’s no one player’s fault, we haven’t had much experience at winning
games in the last few minutes whereas Ireland have more experience than us in
managing those last few minutes.”

Italy took an early lead on seven minutes as Thomas O’Leary was penalised for
holding on the floor and Mirco Bergamasco kicked the penalty.

The game settled into a midfield stalemate until 20 minutes when Ireland started
knocking on the door.

A good break that went wide left then saw Gordon D’Arcy cutting inside and
offloading to Luke Fitzgerald but Alberto Sgarbi got back to haul him down 10
yards out.

Ireland enjoyed more success down the left when a miss pass took Andrea Masi
out of the game and saw Brian O’Driscoll almost get away.

The pressure finally told when Italy were penalised for handling in the ruck
and Jonathan Sexton kicked three points.

Bergamasco pulled a penalty from 40 yards wide while fly-half Kris Burton also
missed a drop goal attempt for the hosts.

But the hosts went in front again on the stroke of half-time as Bergamasco
landed a penalty from out on the right flank after O’Leary was punished for
holding onto the man after a tackle.

Italy’s good humour didn’t last long after the restart, though, as Ireland
stretched them right and then left from a scrum deep inside Italian territory
with O’Driscoll bursting between props Martin Castrogiovanni and Salvatore Perugini
to score.

Sexton kicked the extras.

Ireland should have had a second try on 57 minutes as they worked an overlap
on the right in Italy’s 22 but O’Driscoll horribly overplayed his pass to Fergus

Ten minutes from time Italy got the crowd going as they won a penalty 10 yards
from the Ireland line and tried to heave their way over but after eventually
getting the ball out, Andrea Lo Cicero spilled a poor pass from Sergio Parisse
and the chance was gone.

But when Leamy was sin-binned for a trip, Italy sensed history in the making.

The Azzurri kicked a penalty to the corner and then got the drive on with the

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