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No Crowning Glory For Ireland

No Crowning Glory For Ireland

A valiant Ireland proved no match for Grand Slam winners Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, going down 32-20 despite a late charge through tries from Marcus Horan and Geordan Murphy.

A valiant Ireland proved no match for Grand Slam winners Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, going down 32-20 despite a late charge through tries from Marcus Horan and Geordan Murphy.

SIX NATIONS: Saturday, March 19
Wales 32 Ireland 20, Millennium Stadium
Scorers: Wales: Tries: Gethin Jenkins, Kevin Morgan; Cons: Stephen Jones 2; Pens: Gavin Henson, Jones 4; Drop gl: Henson
Ireland: Tries: Marcus Horan, Geordan Murphy; Cons: David Humphreys 2; Pens: Ronan O’Gara 2

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The unbeaten Welsh – who had previously claimed just one win in the last two Six Nations seasons – played the numbers game to perfection as they claimed a first Slam in 27 years, a first Triple Crown in 16 and a first Championship trophy since 1994.

For Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland – this was not the way their stand-out season was to peter out. Shipping back-to-back Championship defeats in a single season for the first time since 1999 was a heart-breaking, but deserved end.

So few of our big-name players performed on a red-letter afternoon which saw the Dragons end their five-year losing streak against Ireland.

Against what has been the norm in 2005, Ireland started the better of the sides – with fly-half Ronan O’Gara angling over a third minute penalty.

His opposite number Stephen Jones – who went on to kick a vital 16-point haul – missed an immediate chance to respond from the dead ball but a Reggie Corrigan-deflected Gavin Henson drop goal did square things up on 11 minutes.

Five minutes later, Mike Ruddock’s side scored a pivotal try as the Irish – who had set up field position on halfway thanks to a Brian O’Driscoll steal – watched helplessly as an O’Gara clearance was charged down by Gethin Jenkins, and the Wales prop had enough gas to gallop ahead and collect his well-timed kick ahead.

With the conversion good, Henson pulled the strings again with a monster 53-metre penalty for 13-3.

A right wing attack from Ireland – set up by O’Driscoll – saw Denis Hickie shadowed well by Kevin Morgan but the Leinster winger’s offload for the advancing Murphy still saw Girvan Dempsey go close. From the resultant scrum, the Irish pack lost the set piece with Shane Byrne’s knee sending the ball sideways for man-of-the-match Dwayne Peel to clear.

The Cardiff crowd breathed a sigh of relief and they were back on their feet again at half-time – cheering a 16-6 lead, as Jones and O’Gara swapped further penalties.

Ireland were simply not at the races in the opening 15 minutes of the second half – in that period, Ruddock’s charges gleefully hacked on for a 29-6 advantage, effectively seeing off any hopes the Irish had of retaining their Triple Crown, let alone a first trophy since 1985.

The sure-footed Jones kicked two more penalties with O’Gara wayward at the other end, then pint-sized winger Shane Williams just did enough to force Anthony Foley wide and into touch.

The tide turned a deeper shade of red on 58 minutes when Tom Shanklin arrowed through the Irish midfield to set up speedster Kevin Morgan for Wales’ second try and the Dragons full-back’s third in two games.

Jones converted and the men from the Valleys could start eyeing up the promised land. Former Bective Rangers, Leinster and Ireland ‘A’ coach Ruddock praised Ireland for their concerted comeback in the final 20 minutes however.

First replacement prop Horan barged over to the left of the posts on Peter Stringer’s inviting flat pass for another sub David Humphreys to convert.

The Ulster fly-half added the extras to Murphy’s 73rd-minute try as well – with the Leicester man evading a cynical foot-trip from Henson on the way – the try-double only served to jitter the Wales challenge slightly.

Jones’ fourth penalty before Murphy’s incision, had released a fair bit of tension and Wales were not about to cave in with the Slam in sight.

Ireland can take credit from their gritty second half performance but question marks will be raised over the first forty.

How this single result affects the make-up of the British and Irish Lions touring squad to New Zealand will be interesting to find out on April 11.

The 2005 season will be marked down as ‘a lost opportunity’ for Ireland but re-building the team is far from a lost cause.


(15) Kevin Morgan (Dragons)
(14) Mark Taylor (Scarlets)
(13) Tom Shanklin (Blues)
(12) Gavin Henson (Ospreys)
(11) Shane Williams (Ospreys)
(10) Stephen Jones (Clermont Auvergne)
(9) Dwayne Peel (Scarlets)

(1) Gethin Jenkins (Blues)
(2) Mefin Davies (Gloucester)
(3) Adam Jones (Ospreys)
(4) Brent Cockbain (Ospreys)
(5) Robert Sidoli (Blues)
(6) Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
(7) Martyn Williams (Blues)
(8) Michael Owen (Dragons) (Capt)

Replacements used: John Yapp for A Jones (67), Robin McBryde for Davies (69). Not used: Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Robin Sowden-Taylor (Blues), Michael Phillips (Scarlets), Ceri Sweeney (Dragons), Hal Luscombe (Dragons).


(15) Geordan Murphy (Leicester)
(14) Girvan Dempsey (Leinster – Terenure College)
(13) Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster – Blackrock College) (Capt)
(12) Kevin Maggs (Ulster – Belfast Harlequins)
(11) Denis Hickie (Leinster – St Mary’s College)
(10) Ronan O’Gara (Munster – Cork Constitution)
(9) Peter Stringer (Munster – Shannon)
(1) Reggie Corrigan (Leinster – Greystones)
(2) Shane Byrne (Leinster – Blackrock College)
(3) John Hayes (Munster – Bruff)
(4) Malcolm O’Kelly (Leinster – St Mary’s College)
(5) Paul O’Connell (Munster – Young Munster)
(6) Simon Easterby (Scarlets)
(7) Johnny O’Connor (Wasps)
(8) Anthony Foley (Munster – Shannon)

Replacements used: David Humphreys (Ulster – Dungannon) for O’Gara (51 mins), Marcus Horan (Munster – Shannon) for Corrigan and Eric Miller (Leinster – Terenure College) (both 59), Frankie Sheahan (Munster – Cork Constitution) for Byrne and Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster – Cork Constitution) for O’Kelly (both 63). Not used: Guy Easterby (Leinster – Blackrock College), Gavin Duffy (NEC Harlequins).

HT: Wales 16 Ireland 6; Attendance: 74,000; RBS man-of-the-match: Dwayne Peel (Wales)
Referee: Chris White (England)