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Ireland v Wales flashback: 'The jig was up after 90 seconds'

Ireland had defeated Australia and Italy to top their RWC group. The fun stopped when they got to Wellington.

Shane Williams dives over to score after 90 seconds.
Shane Williams dives over to score after 90 seconds.
Image: ©INPHO/Photosport/Justin Arthur

IRELAND APPROACHED THEIR World Cup quarter-final clash against Wales with a fervent belief that their time at a major tournament had come.

Reporting on Ireland’s World Cup journey at the time, I got the sense from almost every player that I spoke to that they felt they could surpass all expectations.

New Zealand were the heavy favourites as Ireland set up camp in windy Wellington, despite the loss of Dan Carter to a groin injury.

The pre-match build-up gave many Irish journalists their first opportunity to meet the Welsh team that so many Kiwis had been raving about.

They had lost narrowly to South Africa but began to turn on the style in their remaining group games. Players such as Alun Wyn Jones and team captain Sam Warburton spoke with a quiet intensity but steered well clear of bold predictions.

Having dispatched Italy so ruthlessly in Dunedin, Ireland kept their counsel but coaches of the teams they had defeated already – Robbie Deans of Australia and Italy’s Nick Mallet – were happy to tell reporters that Ireland had a genuine chance of reaching the final.

Stealth and devastation

The Westpac Stadium in Wellington was dominated by Irish supporters who were taking over each city they chanced upon.

The same fans gave the team a rousing send-off from their team hotel two hours before kick-off and their was a frisson of Irish anticipation in the [really] windy city.

All such thoughts evaporated after just 90 seconds when Jamie Roberts thundered into the Irish defence, Jonathan Davies advanced the ball within metres of the tryline and canny winger Shane Williams dived over in the corner.

5-0 after 90 seconds and the jig looked up. Rhys Priestland added a conversion and penalty swaps made in 10-7 at the break. The scoreline did not reflect the pure line speed of the Welsh and the fact that they looked to have an extra three men on the pitch.

Ireland stormed out for the second-half and Keith Earls gave Irish supporters hope but Mike Phillips nipped up the blindside and dotted down with Tommy Bowe lunging too late to stop him.

Mike Phillips dives over in the second-half. (Mark Tantrum/INPHO/photosport.co.nz)

Ireland would not trouble the scoreboard again and Jonathan Davies added a late try to make it 22-10. Ireland were eliminated.

Post-match blues

Speaking to reporters after the match, scrum-half Conor Murray revealed that he had emerged from a ‘gutted’ dressing room. He said

We are very disappointed with our performance and the way we approached the game. I think we got beaten up by Wales in certain aspects of the game.

Murray conceded, “It is hard to think of moments where we brought that sort of intensity that we did in the pool games. We were playing pretty good rugby up until now and one defeat doesn’t change a team or make a bad team out of you.”

He added, “A few people have said to me already that I’m going to learn from this but right now it is hard to take.”

Brian O’Driscoll struggled to put words to the sheer disappointment of the World Cup exit.

He commented, “Today we were off the pace and we go home because of that,” said the Irish captain. “It’s a bitter disappointment but you have to suck it up when you haven’t performed on the big stage.”

“It is very disappointing, collectively, and personally I won’t get this opportunity again and that really sucks but life goes on.”

The change to avenge the quarter-final defeat came four months later when the sides met in the 2012 Six Nations opener. Wales won 23-21.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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