Ireland hammer sorry Wales
February 26, 2006
Marcus Horan celebrates as team-mate David Wallace scores a try
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Ireland will go into the final two rounds of the Six Nations with serious championship ambitions after inflicting a comprehensive defeat on defending and now definitely deposed champions Wales.
There were none of the desperate heroics displayed two weeks earlier in Paris, but nor was there any need. After a bright start Wales completed its fortnight of self-destruction with its worst display since its last trip to Lansdowne Road two years ago, by no coincidence before deposed Grand Slam coach Mike Ruddock was appointed.
And if acting coach Scott Johnson has the motivational skills attributed to him by some players, they were hardly in evidence immediately after his half-time talk as Ireland roared back into the action with a four-minute assault that concluded with Shane Horgan charging to the Welsh line, leaving Ronan O'Gara the conversion that made it 18-5.
That was it for Wales, as Ireland continued to exert a control that perhaps should have brought them more scores, before Peter Stringer crossed in injury-time, than the penalties Ronan O'Gara added in the 47th and 58th minutes. The sole blot on a happy afternoon for the Irish was the sight of prop Marcus Horan being stretchered off in evident distress twelve minutes from time. Many in Wales will feel this hammering was no more than the players, coaches and officials who destroyed Ruddock's successful tenure deserved.
Yet Wales had begun their last ever trip to European rugby's most atmospheric venue with fluent confidence, monopolising possession and moving it with fluent confidence, running rapidly through the phases to stretch the Irish defence with outside-half Stephen Jones particularly prominent.
It was no great surprise when they scored after seven minutes - Matthew Watkins chipping tidily into the right-hand corner where Andrew Trimble failed to deal with a lethal bounce and Mark Jones plunged to score. Jones missed the conversion, but it seemed likely to be academic as Wales continued to drive forward.
Ireland scarcely touched the ball in the first 15 minutes, but when they did rapidly cut the Welsh lead to two points as Wales were penalised for offside and Ronan O'Gara landed the penalty. Even then Wales continued to roll forward, but suffered a grievous blow when Stephen Jones went off injured.
He was replaced by Gavin Henson, who received a mixed reception from a crowd uncertain whether to boo him or convey ridicule by wolfwhistling. One of his first touches was a well-judged chip into the Irish 22 which Peter Stringer did brilliantly to mark under pressure before taking a quick tap to launch a counter-attack which shifted the momentum of the contest.
Within two minutes Dennis Leamy was forcing his way over amid a phalanx of Welshman and though his possible score was disallowed on video review there was no error from the ensuring five-yard scrum as David Wallace plunged for the line. O'Gara missed the conversion but Ireland led 8-5.
The Irish outside-half compensated with a penalty after 34 minutes as Ireland continued to press and it took a superb tackle by Lee Byrne, tracking across to the corner to drag Jerry Flannery down after Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara had put him into space, to ensure that the Welsh line was not broken again before the break.