Ireland claim historic rugby victory

Celebrations burst out across Ireland tonight after the national team clinched its first Grand Slam in 61 years.

Ireland, captained by Brian O’Driscoll, defeated all European competition to win a rare clean sweep after narrowly beating Wales in Cardiff by 17 points to 15.

‘Six Nations’ fever swept across the country over the past week after Ireland’s win against Scotland put them in with a chance of clinching their first Grand Slam title since 1948.

A deserved Irish victory came after a last-minute Welsh penalty kick dropped short of the bar.

Despite a troublesome start when Wales surged forward with six points in around six minutes, tries by Dubliner O’Driscoll and Ulsterman Tommy Bowe at the start of the second half put them back in the game and then suddently ahead.

Confidence and fatalism mixed as supporters crowded pubs and house parties to watch the match.

But even die-hard rugby fans lost hope as several penalties gave Wales the edge, despite two impressive Irish converted tries. But with minutes to go and under immense pressure., fly-half Ronan O’Gara kicked a famous drop-goal.

Nevertheless, victory was almost snatched from Ireland’s grasp at the last moment when Wales was afforded a long-range penalty. ‘s Stephen Jones’s kick landed just short of the crossbar, just as the last seconds ticked away, and a historic triumph was achieved.

There were many outstanding performances on the day but none eclipsed the contribution of man-of-the-match Brian O’Driscoll. Praise was also heaped on transformative Ireland coach Declan Kidney as well as inspirational forward Paul O’Connell.

The Grand Slam-winning rugby team will be greeted by fans at a homecoming reception to be held outside the Mansion House -- the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin -- tomorrow at 4.30pm.

The teamwill arrive into Dublin Airport and proceed directly to the Mansion House where they will take to a stage specially-erected for the occasion.

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