Ireland hammer hapless Wales
February 22, 2004
Shane Byrne dives in for one of his brace of tries
© Getty Images
Ireland swept to their first competitive win since defeating Argentina 16-15 in the World Cup, with a whirlwind display in the Dublin sunshine at Lansdowne Road, hammering six tries past the hapless Welsh in a 36-8 victory.
Their first points of this season's RBS Six Nations campaign were garnered off the back of a superb first half performance seeing Leinster hooker Shane Byrne touch down for a brace, his second and third international tries, but the Dragons breathed a little fire in the second half as replacement centre Tom Shanklin crossed to draw the visitors to within three scores.
That was as good as it got for Steve Hansen's men who truly caught Ireland on the worst day possible as they ran in four first half tries. Whether coach Eddie O'Sullivan is an astrological man or not, three days ago a new moon coincided with his naming of Leinster team mates Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll as a new international midfield partnership and they combined to good effect throughout.
With the front row looking like a ZZ Top twenty year reunion, Byrne left shaggy-haired props Adam Jones and Iestyn Thomas to discuss the relative merits of their hairdryers, scoring in the left corner after just sixty seconds and a lineout and maul over from the Irish pack.
Ronan O'Gara's conversion gave the home side the perfect start but erred when hanging on in the tackle on 5 minutes, gifting Stephen Jones his first penalty kick in reply. Again the Irish lineout was key to their second try, as despite stopping the 14th maul off a ten-metre Irish throw in, would-be Welsh tacklers were brought over the line as O'Driscoll marked his return with a brilliant scissors move score, with O'Gara converting again.
Ulster wing Tyrone Howe almost went over before the half hour, but Ireland nabbed a third try after a Wales turnover goes wrong and centre Iestyn Harris' dawdling kick was charged down by O'Gara and gleefully touched down in the corner by the Munster number 10.
Wales number 8 Dafydd Jones missed out on a two-man overlap to see the visitors back into the game on 35 minutes, and Ireland, despite losing second row Donncha O'Callaghan through a right leg injury four minutes before the half time whistle, they crowned one of their greatest first half performances in recent memory through Byrne again, as he squirted over on the back of another lineout close in.
Ireland's 24-3 lead was quickly added with number 8 Anthony Foley going over onto Peter Stringer's inside pass at the Havelock end, similar to his try against the French last weekend only minutes into the second half.
O'Driscoll was on song in open play with D'Arcy excelling in defence, although taken off injured in the final quarter, and the Lions centre managed to claim his second and equal Denis Hickie's Irish record of 23 tries, after a counter attack from full back Girvan Dempsey.
Wales hit back with a Shanklin try in the corner from a flowing move, and the imposing centre, on for the ineffective Sonny Parker stole in for a second, converted by Stephen Jones, amid confusion over the sin-binning of Dempsey, as French referee had a case of mistaken identity on 74 minutes when wing Howe infringed.
A fifth successive win over Wales sees Ireland redress the balance on a weekend when three of the Emerald Isle's provinces lost out to Welsh sides in the Celtic League. All the momentum from last Saturday's 23-10 success over Scotland has been lost by the Welsh and they will welcome France to the Millenium Stadium in a fortnight's time with much trepidation. Ireland will travel to Twickenham with renewed hope.