Six Nations 2002
O'Driscoll magic sinks Scots
March 2, 2002
Brian O'Driscoll races away to score one of his hat-trick of tries
© Getty Images
Brilliant Brian O'Driscoll revived Irish Six Nations title hopes with his second international hat-trick at Lansdowne Road.
The Lions centre set up the opening try, created a second, then ran the length of the field for a third, before rounding off an emphatic win by splitting the visitors' defence in the final minute as Ireland put the miseries of Twickenham behind them in emphatic fashion.
England's defeat in Paris has thrown the championship race wide open, and if Ireland can follow up this success by slaughtering Italy in two weeks time, a repeat of the 2000 win over France at the Stade de France in April could yet see them take the title.
Given that it was defeat to Scotland in Edinburgh last September which cost them the trophy last year, victory today was particularly sweet, and thrillingly, O'Driscoll was at its heart.
In the build-up to the game, Scotland coach Ian McGeechan admitted he had no special plans for stopping arguably the most feared attacker in the competition.
How he might have wished he had revised that opinion as he trooped in to address his team at the end.
The brilliant Lions centre, who burst onto the scene with his first hat-trick against Ireland in Paris two years ago, completely wrecked what had been a decent first half for the visitors, before hammering the final nail into the Scottish coffin.
In an error-strewn contest, Scotland had held their own, and with Brendan Laney again looking like the answer to a perennial goalkicking problem, they had edged ahead after David Humphreys' opening penalty.
But Scotland's defence stood off O'Driscoll as he linked into the line as the ball moved left from a five-metre scrum, and he burst through the gap for his first touchdown.
Humphreys missed the conversion, so O'Driscoll was forced to delve into his bag of magic tricks to put his team in front.
After taking Eric Miller's long pass, the Leinster star seemed certain to be submerged beneath a sea of Irish defenders, but spotted Shane Horgan hanging about on the right wing and produced a perfect 30-metre pass to find him.
Any thoughts that O'Driscoll had done enough damage were cruelly shattered two minutes from the break, when Laney spilled a poor Bryan Redpath pass and hared off 80 metres downfield to breathless cheers from the home support, who had also raised the roof on hearing of England's demise.
A combination of niggling injuries and disjointed Irish forward play kept the star home centre out of the second-half action.
But, with the clock ticking down, he moved into the line as he had done an hour earlier, and sprinted through the gaping hole.
The scoreline was just one Irish point short of being an exact replica of the previous Dublin meeting between the teams but Scotland only had themselves to blame as their efforts were constantly undermined by indiscipline and a failure to convert positions of promise.
It was all rather harsh on visiting second-rowers Scott Murray and Stuart Grimes, who completely dismantled the Irish line-out.
Scotland have established themselves as the best poachers of opposition ball in the world, and the duo's efforts today only enhanced that reputation.
Evidently though, McGeechan's team are deficient in other departments, and with Townsend not having one of his most effective outings, they lacked the guile to break down the Irish defence.
Promising centre Andrew Henderson did manage to cross, only for the effort to be ruled out for an earlier knock-on, and, having escaped a period of pressure by conceding just a single penalty, Ireland stretched their lead with two more Humphreys kicks.
Scotland looked beaten as the hour mark passed, and their hopes took another nosedive when Pountney, back after an abdominal problem, was yellow carded as referee Nigel Whitehouse decided to act after a string of petty offences.
Humphreys converted, then sent replacement back-row Simon Easterby charging home with a neat reverse pass after James McLaren had fumbled 20 metres from his own line.
Martin Leslie briefly raised a visiting cheer when he drove over near the end, but the roars were all for O'Driscoll as he rounded off the win.