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Wales 22-30 Ireland, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium
O'Driscoll relieved to emerge with win
ESPN Staff
February 2, 2013
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip lauds Wales comeback
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Teams: Ireland | Wales

Irish talisman Brian O'Driscoll was happy to overlook Wales' comeback in the second half as Ireland started their Six Nations campaign with a win.

Declan Kidney's men were 30-3 ahead with three tries when the defending champions came to life and ran in a trio of touchdowns themselves. Only dogged Irish defence over the last 20 minutes kept their hosts from completing what would have been a phenomenal comeback.

"The first game is a 'must win', otherwise you're chasing your tail for the rest of the Championship," O'Driscoll said. "Wales have done a job on us the last few times. But we came out of the blocks in the first half and played really well."

Kidney was full of praise for O'Driscoll who scored one try, created another and led Ireland's defence in a man-of-the-match performance. And the Ireland coach hopes the star centre will grace the Six Nations tournament for at least another year.

He said: "Brian will make up his own mind. I would not like to sway him one way over the other. The bottom line is you would love to have the guy around forever wouldn't you?

"But if you look at the performance he put in today, that is not easy on the body. Huge credit to him, given the amount of game time he has had, to come out and give such an international class performance like he did today.

"It is wrong to say it doesn't surprise you, as normally you should not be able to pull out a performance like that with the amount of game time he has under his belt. With Brian it is just a privilege to be working with him."

Kidney was happy that they finally overcame a side who have held the Indian sign over them for the past few seasons. Memories of their match from two years ago when Wales won following a controversial try and their win in the 2011 World Cup quarter- finals were still fresh in the memory in the build-up and Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien described the fixture as a "grudge match."

"To come to the home of the champions and to get a win gives us a good start," Kidney said. "That's all it is. Obviously we'd be delighted with the first half, and the second half we'd have to take a good look at."

Wales coach Rob Howley though had a frustrating afternoon as first he saw his charges let Ireland in for three tries with an ill-disciplined showing, then watch them come close to a remarkable fightback. It means his side has now lost eight consecutive matches, including five in a row at their once fortress-like Millennium Stadium home.

Ireland celebrate as Cian Healy touches down, Wales v Ireland, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 2, 2013
Ireland celebrate Cian Healy's try © Getty Images
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"It is frustrating and disappointing. With the way we started we allowed Ireland a foothold," Howley said. "The key in any international game is territory and possession and we came second by a very long way. Ireland's kicking game, combined with our lack of accuracy at the contact area, allowed them field position, the pressure built and built and built and they took their opportunities.

"On the other hand, in the second half we played a lot of good rugby had a good impact off the bench and scored three tries, but in that first 20 minutes we need to focus. We spoke all week about starting well and we didn't."

Howley is still waiting to taste victory against a Test playing nation while in charge of his country. The first half would have made worrying viewing for the former scrum-half, as well as Warren Gatland, who was at the Millennium Stadium in his capacity as Lions head coach. But Howley rejected suggestions his squad were not responding to his coaching ideas.

"We were disappointed to lose another try in the first two minutes of the second half, but to come back from 30 points to three down to where we were... I think it is a silly question to ask about players buying in," he said.

"It reminded me of the game against Scotland here a few years ago (where Wales scored 17 points in the final few minutes to snatch a remarkable win). We probably left four tries out there. We had two situations where we did not finish off two against ones and there were a couple of poor decisions in their 22.

"But the players showed a lot of character, which you want to see as a coach. It's a shame we couldn't score a fraction earlier in the second half. If we had I think that game could have had a different ending."

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