Ireland hammer sorry Wales
October 13, 2001
Denis Hickie runs in to score at the Millennium Stadium
© Getty Images
Wales's Irish nightmare continues. They have not beaten Ireland in Cardiff since 1983 and never looked like ending that abysmal record with one of their poorest showings since Graham Henry took over as coach.
David Humphreys kicked immaculately and that was all that was needed to see Ireland home with plenty to spare. In theory they can still win the Championship with a thumping great win over England but they will not be celebrating too loudly though because they were not much better than their hosts for much of the match.
Three tries in the last 10 minutes put a gloss on the victory they scarcely deserved. They were workmanlike at best and made fewer mistakes but this was not a good advertisement for Northern Hemisphere rugby.
OK, so Wales were without a few front-line players but that was no excuse for the anonymity of most of the team. Without Scott Quinnell the pack has no leader and no focus. Geraint Lewis will never make an international number 8 and, with Colin Charvis having an off day, none of the others looked good enough either.
Stephen Jones's passing was terribly laboured and that left the backs with no chance. Allan Bateman and Leigh Davies could make no impression in the centre and I cannot remember Dafydd James touching the ball.
For Ireland there was plenty of strong running from Kevin Maggs and Denis Hickie and some nice touches from Brian O'Driscoll but it was Humphreys who stole the show. He kicked beautifully out of hand as well as landing his goals and made a couple of telling breaks. Ronan O'Gara came on for the final few minutes but with Humphreys in this form he will struggle to regain his starting place.
At the end of the first half Wales were trailing 15-3 and could count themselves distinctly fortunate not to be further behind. Their first up tackling was appalling and first David Wallace then the unlikely figure of Peter Clohessy carved huge holes through the middle to set up good attacking positions.
The cover tackling was rather better and somehow the Welsh kept their line in tact but Humphreys still made them pay with beautifully struck penalties as the desperate Welsh either fell offside or tried to snaffle the ball illegally after tackles.
He opened his account with just a minute gone after a deliberate knock-on and was soon on target again after Wallace's rampage. Jones replied for Wales when an Irishman was caught holding back a support player but the lead was soon extended when Charvis was adjudged to have formed a bridge as he stole the ball.
The referee was doing Wales no favours - at one stage Humphreys tackled his opposite number as he received the ball from a lineout tap and got away with it - but it was their own mistakes which cost them mostly. Humphreys went close with a drop goal attempt before adding two more penalties.
In reply Wales managed just one telling attack - an excellent counter from Kevin Morgan who burst through the middle before chipping ahead. It needed the swift intervention of Hickie, covering from the opposite wing to get the ball into touch a couple of metres from the line but Wales promptly lost the lineout.
In the five minutes before half-time Ireland put Wales under incredible pressure and crossed the line twice - once with Shane Hogan ignoring a three man overlap - but the video referee confirmed that they failed to get the ball down on either occasion. It was a very relieved home team that trudged off to face Henry's ire.
Whatever he said worked for a while. Wales applied most of the pressure in the first 15 minutes of the second half and reduced the arrears with a Jones penalty. If his next attempt had gone over to get Wales back in range it might have kick started the Welsh effort but it sailed tamely wide and the revival fizzled out.
Ireland looked as if they had to score as they drove a maul over but managed to knock-on with all the hard work done. Eventually though, with 73 minutes gone they scored the try the game so badly needed. Inevitably, it came from a Welsh mistake. They were committed to attack when Rob Howley, with Morgan the only ray of sunshine for the home side, fumbled as he tried to break from the base of a ruck, coughed up possession, and when Keith Wood worked the ball wide Hickie was left with nobody to beat as he sprinted in from 50 metres.
That opened the floodgates. Shane Williams lost the ball as he tried to run from his own 22 to gift a try to O'Driscoll and finally, Horgan was left with a simple run-in after Wales were turned over just outside their own 22.
Wales were awful but Ireland were nothing to write home about and I dread to think what England might do to them if they can pick up where they left off last season.