Planet Rugby

Ball decision seals victory for Wales

12th March 2011 15:56


Mike Phillips try for Wales against Ireland

That try: Mike Phillips

Wales kept alive their slim hopes of lifting the Six Nations trophy with a 19-13 victory over Ireland in a dour clash at the Millennium Stadium.

Controversy will forever be attached with this March 12 fixture as a Mike Phillips score that should never have been awarded will leave the whole of Ireland fuming on Saturday evening.

It came from an Irish clearance that led to Wales captain Matthew Rees taking a line-out quickly. However, television replays proved the eyebrow raisers correct in that it was a different ball that the hooker picked up and used on the touchline.

But the history books will show a Welsh victory, one that puts them level on points with current leaders England, who play Scotland on Sunday.

Ireland had gone into the dressing room at half-time with a 13-9 lead thanks to a try from Brian O'Driscoll, but were left pointless in the second period as they chose to kick more than they ran. Paddy Wallace will also be kicking himself for looking for an easier conversion for Jonathan Sexton instead of just taking the try at the death.

But in truth, the sporadic drama cannot disguise what was a dismal 80 minutes.

The game took just 20 seconds for the first replacement to be made and it may be a record for the shortest period of time on a field. Scrum-half Eoin Reddan was withdrawn after copping a ball in the face from Lee Byrne's hefty clearance directly from the kick-off.

Peter Stringer came on in his place at the base and was, in fact, the player to fire out a pass to returning Ireland winger Tommy Bowe, who subsequently created a hole for captain and outside centre O'Driscoll to dive over and open the scoring in the early stages.

If that substitution is to be an unwanted tag for scrum-half Reddan, it was one of three records or milestones to be beaten or matched within the first four minutes. O'Driscoll's smartly-taken try now propels him to joint top try-scorer in Five/Six Nations history while Ronan O'Gara reached 1000 Test points with the extras.

Wales quickly needed to find their footing and two James Hook penalties pulled them back to within a point before the hour, with Ireland giving away sloppy offences at the breakdown.

Hook's inclusion over the veteran fly-half Stephen Jones did not really lead to much creation though, as both sides maybe felt the need to claim victory before looking to cut loose.

O'Gara did boot a long-range penalty on 33 minutes and one on the half-time hooter to extend the lead, but it was only a three-point lift due to Leigh Halfpenny's own strike.

The second-half was one to forget for Ireland as replacement Sexton endured a difficult half-hour. First he pushed a cross-field effort into touch before missing a simple penalty.

Then came the moment that will be tagged to this game as Rees threw to Phillips from the touchline and the scrum-half showed his pace and power to go over. Hook's conversion was the further twist of the knife into Ireland's side as the momentum had consequently swung. Jonathan Kaplan had requested confirmation from touch judge Peter Allan, who said it was the same ball, but replays conclusively illustrated that the officials were wrong.

Ireland cannot say that they didn't have a chance to banish their upcoming nightmare tonight though, with Wallace's big blunder on the hooter ending Ireland's hopes of silverware.

Man-of-the-match: For his general game-management, James Hook.

Moment-of-the-match: Is there any other contender? The controversial try for Mike Phillips. Ireland will no doubt be fuming and talking about this one for a good while yet.

Villain-of-the-match: I don't mean to pick on an official but it has to go to Peter Allan for not spotting the different ball being used in the lead-up to Mike Phillips' try.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Try: Phillips
Con: Hook
Pen: Hook 3, Halfpenny

For Ireland:
Tries: O'Driscoll
Con: O'Gara
Pen: O'Gara 2

Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Roberts, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 John Yapp, 18 Jonathan Thomas, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Dwayne Peel, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Morgan Stoddart.

Ireland: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian 0'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Paddy Wallace.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Peter Allan (Scotland)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)

By Adam Kyriacou

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