Byline: PETER JACKSON
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL marked the dying seconds of his Test century yesterday in fairytale fashion by rescuing the champions of Europe from being counted out by another Rocky blockbuster.
His mere presence having spirited the Australian midfield defence into parting like the Red Sea, Ireland's perennial saviour strode over between the posts to snatch an honourable draw which had appeared for the previous 79 minutes to be beyond their reach.
The O'Driscoll try prevented an old Leinster colleague from doing for the credibility of the Six Nations what the French had done for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup soccer aspirations the night before at the same venue.
Rocky Elsom's one-handed touchdown in the left corner had put the Wallabies in sight of the victory their technical superiority justified and the Irish in imminent danger of witnessing their Grand Slam homecoming fall victim to rugby's very own Sylvester Stallone.
A match which came from another planet compared to England's dreadful offering at Twickenham 24 hours earlier will at least have restored public faith that not every Test match has succumbed to boot and bosh.
Ireland had no inhibitions and in the end they had a reward for their enterprise, however lucky given Matt Giteau's failure with two penalties and two drops.
In the course of shattering Australia's dream of taking a Grand Slam jaunt of their own around these islands and emulating Andrew Slack's charismatic team of 1984, O'Driscoll's last-minute strike averted the most depressing question of all -- how the top team in one hemisphere can lose at home to the bottom one from the other.
Ireland, behind for all but five brief minutes before Elsom's try, struck from a five-metre scrum after another confusing case of technology left the video referee no option but to deny Tommy Bowe his second try of the match.
Fortuitously for Ireland, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Scrum half Tomas O'Leary picked O'Driscoll out from the set piece and for once Australian centre Digby Ioane drifted left in anticipation of the ball being spun wide.
The move, designed by veteran Australian Alan Gaffney in his guise as Ireland backs coach, worked like a dream. 'It's a smart ploy,' said O'Driscoll. 'We didn't get the chance to use it during the Six Nations last season. It was great when they opened up like that but Tomas deserves credit for having the vision to pick the right option.'
The stunning simplicity of the first-phase score left Ronan O'Gara an easy conversion with the last kick, by which time he had ridiculed speculation about his long Test reign coming to an end. …