RWC #8: Gordon Hamilton’s try against Australia in 1991

David Campese can’t catch the Ballymena flanker as he puts Ireland on the brink of the semi-finals

Ahead of the 1991 World Cup quarter-final between Ireland and Australia, not many people were giving Ciaran Fitzgerald's side a prayer.

Indeed, four years earlier Australia had dispatched of Ireland with ease at the same stage, Michael Lynagh and Matthew Burke setting up a comfortable 33-15 win in Sydney.

With Scotland likely to ease past Western Samoa and New Zealand against Canada a formality the eyes of the world seemed to be on France’s quarter-final tie against England .

However those who didn’t have their eyes on Dublin on the 20th October missed out on an all-time classic at Lansdowne Road.


Predicted dominance from the Wallabies never unfolded, and while the electric David Campese had scored twice Ralph Keyes, the tournament's top scorer, kept Ireland in touch.

Trailing 15-12 with five minutes left Ireland broke through Jack Clarke on the left. Tackled, he looked inside for the big wing forward Gordon Hamilton, who hit the ball at full speed and motored down the left flank.

David Campese was in hot pursuit; surely he’d catch the Ballymena flanker?

No. Hamilton accelerated and pulled clear of Australia's flying winger, before riding the tackle of Rob Egerton and collapse joyously over the line.

Lansdowne Road erupted. The terraces swayed and bodies swarmed over barriers and onto the pitch.

A moment’s calm descended to allow Keyes to nail a touchline conversion. Ireland were 18-15 up in the dying minutes. They were about to achieve the improbable. They just needed to hold on.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times