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Wales Remain On Track For The Grand Slam

8th March 2008 By Munster Rugby

Wales Remain On Track For The Grand Slam

Wales captured the Triple Crown and remain on track for the Grand Slam thanks to their 16-12 victory over Ireland at Croke Park today.

Wales captured the Triple Crown and remain on track for the Grand Slam thanks to their 16-12 victory over Ireland at Croke Park today.

On the balance of play few could begrudge them their win and they did score the only try of the game through Shane Williams but when Ireland got to within a point of the lead with thirteen minutes to go it looked like they could go on and win. However, a needless penalty gave James Hook – a 64th minute replacement for Stephen Jones – the opportunity to extend the lead again to a crucial four points and Wales did a Munster on it from the restart – simply took possession of the leather gave it to their pack and let them run down the clock.

From O?Gara?s kick off Ireland exerted early pressure that ended with an O?Gara penalty after five minutes. Immediate pressure in response from the Welsh saw Robert Kearney do well to double back and tidy up a Mark Jones chip-ahead and Stephen Jones should have levelled when awarded a penalty in front of the posts but the normally reliable Jones drove his effort wide.

In the 18th minute O?Gara extended the Irish lead with a penalty from the 22 under the Cusack Stand and two minutes later a sublime touchfind from the Munster man hit the goal-line flag to put the pressure back on Wales. The Welsh jumper rose early Paul O?Connell picked off the throw and although Wales managed to clear their lines the opening try almost came Ireland?s way when Shane Horgan was denied by the TMO after a great solo run.

Wales lifted the siege and Jones found touch ten metres from the Irish line. Penalised at the throw, Ireland conceded the score and Jones was on the mark from the 22. He tried a longer effort in the 29th minute ? a strange decision given the circumstances – but was well wide.
Wales then started to shift the ball wide, right and left to good effect and it needed a great Kearney tackle to prevent Lee Byrne scoring the game?s opening try. Kearney was again involved second later to stop Ryan Jones in his tracks and somehow the Welsh again managed to blow a try scoring opportunity when they went wide right with men over.

The half ended with Ireland forced to defend desperately and a penalty awarded to Wales under the Irish posts was reversed when Mike Phillips was yellow carded for a needless and dangerous knee into the back of a prone Marcus Horan.

Down to fourteen for the restart Wales levelled with Jones penalty after five minutes and we had the game?s opening try when Shane Williams was missed first by Andrew Trimble then Tommy Bowe to score wide on the right for Jones to kick a great conversion for a 13-6 advantage.

Wales had another great opportunity minutes later but then found them themselves again reduced to fourteen when Martyn Williams was yellow carded for a trip on Eoin Reddan and O?Gara?s penalty reducing their lead to just four points.

That lead became the bare minimum when O?Gara was on the mark in the 66th minute but four minutes after coming on as a replacement for Rory Best, Bernard Jackman conceded a needless penalty was penalised and Hook put four points between them leaving Ireland needing a try ro win.

From the restart Wales simply held onto the ball before Phillips joyfully lashed in into touch to stretch the smile on Welsh faces – and on Warren Gatland – to breaking point.

Ireland. R Kearney; S Horgan, B O?Driscoll (L Fitzgerald 70 min), A Trimble, T Bowe; R O?Gara, E Reddan; M Horan, R Best (B Jackman 70 min), J Hayes (T Buckley 70 min); D O?Callaghan, P O?Connell; D Leamy, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

Wales. L Byrne; M Jones, T Shanklin, G Henson, S Williams; S Jones (J Hook 64 min), M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones (D Jones 72 min); I Gough, A Wynn-Jones; J Thomas, R Jones (G Delve 75 min), M Williams


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