Wood savours Ireland's finest hour
March 5, 2000
Captain Keith Wood basked in the glory of Ireland's finest hour after leading his team to a record 60-13 win over Italy at Lansdowne Road.
Wood scored one of Ireland's six tries in their best-ever Five/Six Nations Championship win while their total equalled England's 60-point haul against Wales set in 1998.
"It's very heartening to be able to score 60 points" said Wood. "I don't know what to say. We've got two wins on the trot, it's brilliant. We're very happy.
"I thought it would have been an awful lot tougher but we got some early scores and that took the pressure off us."
Ireland led 33-0 at half-time and coach Warren Gatland, disappointed that his side conceded two late tries in their 44-22 win over Scotland a fortnight ago, revealed that he had challenged his players to put the Azzurri to the sword.
"We talked at half-time about being ruthless and putting Italy away," said Gatland. "I asked if they had the bottle and courage to finish those guys off.
"We took our foot off the pedal for a time but we eventually got the message to get the ball out wide."
The match was a personal triumph for 22 year-old fly-half Ronan O'Gara, who kicked 12 goals from 12 attempts to beat by a point the championship record of 29 set by his Italian counterpart Diego Dominguez against the Scots a month ago.
However, Gatland brought the Munster youngster down to earth by claiming: "He's still a long way to go to become an international out-half and he would be the first to admit it.
"Today was all about giving him the confidence to develop as a player. He's scored a record 30 points and you can't take that away from him."
O'Gara, who was replaced during his debut against Scotland by David Humphreys, said: "There is a sense of relief. David Humphreys had a smashing game the last day but he's been great with me throughout the week and it's good to have that sort of competition between us.
"Most of the credit must go to the pack for their performance in the first 20 minutes, they were awesome. It shows what you can do with quality ball."
Italy's New Zealand-born coach Brad Johnstone was taken aback by his team's poor defensive display but hopes that home advantage will make all the difference when the Azzurri meet championship favourites England next up.
"I'm very disappointed," he said. "The guys have got to learn to play with passion away from home as much as they do at home."