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Wales pip Ireland at the death

05th February 2012 14:25

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ireland v wales

Tight tussle: The Welsh again proved to be the Irish's nemesis

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked a 79th-minute penalty to break Irish hearts and steal a 23-21 Six Nations win in Dublin on Sunday.

Revenge was on the menu for Ireland following their World Cup exit against the Welsh, but defeat is what they were served at the Aviva Stadium where they have now lost three games on the trot.

At 21-15, it looked like Ireland's game for the taking with five minutes left on the clock and Wales lock Bradley Davies in the bin. However, the visitors had other ideas and cut the deficit to a one-point ball game through a George North try.

Halfpenny missed the conversion to take the lead, but held his nerve to slot over a last-gasp penalty four minutes later - after Stephen Ferris was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Ian Evans - to deny the Irish and help open his team's Six Nations account with an upset win.

Wales played with an energy that Ireland failed to match for the majority of the first half, and were desperately unlucky not to have a try awarded early on by the TMO who - after several replays - decided it was "inconclusive" after a sea of red jerseys barged over the line.

But the Welsh weren't to be denied again by the TMO following centre Jonathan Davies's well-worked try in the corner that was set up by Rhys Priestland, but which the pivot failed to convert.

Priestland, in doubt for this match before he was declared fit to play on Friday, showed no signs of discomfort from the knee injury that kept him out of action for two weeks with ball in hand.

However, he was off-target with the boot after missing his second shot at goal with a penalty attempt from bang in front that would have extended his team's lead to five points.

Instead, it was Ireland who managed to find some spark produced from a rare attack inside Wales' 22 that started with Tommy Bowe breaking the line and ended with hooker Rory Best crossing the whitewash for a crucial score before half-time.

Sexton added the extras from far out and Ireland went into the half-time sheds 10-5 in front.

Ireland opened up the second half in the same fashion as they did the first courtesy of another three points from Sexton.

Halfpenny, who had taken on the kicking duties, landed a long-range attempt in reply and centre Davies capitalised on North's bulldozing run for a superb second try.

Halfpenny converted but Wales' lead was only brief as Sexton booted a tricky penalty and, when Bradley Davies was sin-binned for tipping Donnacha Ryan on his head, Bowe soon scored in the corner after taking a magnificent pass from his pivot.

Sexton missed the conversion and a penalty - both difficult kicks - and the irrepressible North crashed over only for Halfpenny to miss the conversion before accepting the second invite after Ferris's indiscretion.

Man of the match: For Ireland, Tommy Bowe created one and scored one, while Jamie Heaslip was the pick of the Irish forwards. For Wales, Ryan Jones ran hard and offered Wales leadership when Sam Warburton had left the pitch through injury and Jonathan Davies richly deserved his two-try haul. However, wing George North was undoubtedly Wales' star man. He bullied Ireland's backline at will, showing superb skill setting up Davies's second try and tremendous strength for his own five-pointer. Who needs Shane Williams when you got this guy out wide?

Moment of the match: Take your pick... Davies' second try... Bowe's five-pointer... North's score... Halfpenny's last-gasp penalty. This game was full of them!

Villain of the match: There's two of them - Bradley Davies and Stephen Ferris, with the latter's brain implosion ultimately proving very costly indeed.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: Best, Bowe
Cons: Sexton
Pens: Sexton 3

For Wales:
Tries: J Davies 2, North
Cons: Halfpenny
Pens: Halfpenny 2

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell (capt), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 David Kearney.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Andy Powell, 19 Justin Tipuric, 20 Lloyd Willians, 21 James Hook, 22 Scott Williams.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

By Dave Morris

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1Ireland58
2England58
3Wales56
4France56
5Scotland52
6Italy50