- England - Ireland - rugby - Six Nations
AFP - Brian O'Driscoll led from the front to keep Ireland on course for a first Grand Slam since 1948 by scoring eight points in a nailbiting 14-13 victory over England at Croke Park here Saturday.
The talismanic centre scored the first try of the game, having already landed a 30-metre drop-goal, to put Ireland 11-3 ahead going into the final quarter.
But England set up a frantic final minute after full-back Delon Armitage scored a 79th minute try which was converted by replacement stand-off Andy Goode to cut Ireland's lead to just a point.
This was Ireland's third straight win but for England defeat meant a second consecutive loss after a 23-15 reverse against Wales.
"We'd take a one point win over England any day," said man of the match O'Driscoll.
"I don't think England get enough respect. They are a good team with decent results. They are a tough team to play."
England again didn't help themselves by playing 20 minutes of the match, including the final 10, a man down after sin-binnings for prop Phil Vickery and replacement Danny Care took their yellow card count to 10 in four matches.
Indeed O'Driscoll's try came soon after Vickery had been binned.
Just when England had got themselves back into the match after Armitage cut Ireland's lead to 11-6, after taking over the kicking duties from injured outside-half Toby Flood, the visitors' fallible discipline let them down again when scrum-half Care was ordered off following a needless push on Ireland prop Marcus Horan.
Ireland outside-half Ronan O'Gara, who'd missed four previous kicks at goal, was on target with the penalty to give his side an eight point cushion.
An attritional first-half, where Ireland dominated territory and possession, ended level at 3-3 after a penalty apiece from O'Gara and Flood.
Ireland kicked-off knowing they were now the only side in this year's tournament who could complete a clean sweep after reigning Grand Slam champions Wales lost 21-16 to France on Friday.
England were able to slow Ireland's ruck ball but in the 12th minute centre Mike Tindall was penalised for not rolling away.
However, O'Gara - who started the match needing just 11 points to overtake England great Jonny Wilkinson's tournament record of 479, was off-target.
Ireland scrum-half Tomas O'Leary kept his pack on the front foot with some well-judged kicks over the top of the defence.
The hosts should have gone ahead in the 21st minute when England scrum-half Harry Ellis conceded a penalty when not releasing after being tackled by Ireland wing Luke Fitzgerald
But, from just 22 metres out, the normally accurate O'Gara saw his kick go well to the right of the posts.
Both teams put in some heavy tackles with O'Driscoll putting in an especially big hit to stop lock Nick Kennedy during a rare England foray into the Irish 22.
O'Gara made it third time lucky when he opened the scoring in the 28th minute after England were offside at a ruck.
But just when it seemed Ireland would turn round with a slender lead, England equalised.
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell won a lineout but lost possession of the ball as he came down from his jump. England regathered and, after Ireland infringed in front of their posts, Flood made no mistake with the easy chance.
O'Gara's bad day with the boot continued early in the second half when, after England handled in the ruck, he saw a 37-metre penalty chance come back off the right post.
Armitage was fortunate not to be yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on but, with South African referee Craig Joubert indicating a penalty, O'Driscoll landed a drop-goal from 30 metres to edge Ireland 6-3 in front.
Armitage then somehow stayed on the field following a blatant late block on O'Driscoll after the Irish skipper had chipped ahead.
Ireland kicked the ensuing penalty for a lineout and drove to within a few metres of the English line.
Eventually, Joubert lost patience with England and Vickery was yellow-carded for not rolling away at the tackle.
With Vickery off the field, Ireland scrummed and then laid siege to the English line before O'Driscoll went over although it needed the video referee to confirm the score.