And there we all were again: All poised for an exhilarating day of international rugby. Super Saturday has become a legendary, not-to-be-missed, date for the diary, and 2014 certainly didn’t disappoint.
With none of the nations being in a position to seize the coveted Grand Slam title, the final weekend was a three-way race between Ireland, England and France. If Ireland won, they would be the outright winners, but if France beat Ireland in Paris, then England could snatch the title on points difference.
The first game saw England rattle up an impressive tally of tries against the Italians in Rome, more than conscious of the need to get as close as possible to Ireland’s own formidable points difference to have any chance of stealing ahead of the Irish.
The Scottish crumbled in Cardiff in what was another high scoring game. The Welsh were without star Full-Back, Leigh Halfpenny, but Stuart Hogg made it impossible for his team to fend off a determined Welsh team. A deplorable hit on Dan Biggar led to the Scot being sent off the field after only 20 minutes of play, leaving Scotland to suffer its worse ever defeat against a Welsh side.
Crunch Time: Paris
The Six Nations following a Lions tour is historically there for France’s taking, with France winning every tournament afterwards since 1998. However, following France’s shock loss against Wales mid-tournament, France looked to have squandered its opportunity to win yet another Championship off the back of the four nations’ trip Down-Under over the summer. Statistically, Ireland had only managed to beat France in Paris once in some 40 odd years, and so England were relatively confident that a tournament win could emerge off the back of the weekend’s final game.
But England’s dreams of winning only its second Six Nations Championship since 2003 was to be shattered by the luck of one Irishman named Brian O’Driscoll. The Irish Centre had bid farewell to his home crowd at the Aviva Stadium last week, and the game in Paris yesterday against France was to be his final international game.
England watched helplessly as France’s last attempt to claw back a marginal victory over Ireland was denied by the video ref somewhere in the depths of the stadium, thus realising the fairy-tale ending for Brian O’Driscoll.
It really was a fitting end to a remarkable sporting career with O’Driscoll closing his international career with a win against all the odds at the Stade de France. Now would probably be the best time to explain that the last time Ireland won here was, in fact, the first time O’Driscoll played in a Six Nations tournament (it was actually the first EVER Six Nations tournament after Italy joined in 2000), and there was no wonder that BOD battled against his emotions as the final whistle went. Whether you loved him, or loathed him, everyone could agree on one thing: that rugby was losing one of its best. Take a bow, Brian O’Driscoll, for you have served our sport well.
BRIAN O’DRISCOLL – LEGEND