A devastated Brian O'Driscoll in post-match interview. David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Simon Hick's Match Report: The good, the bad and the inexplicable

A muted coda to the careers of its most talented generation, Ireland’s quarter-final performance against Wales defied explanation.

THERE’S NEVER A satisfactory explanation from the team or management after a defeat like this. They are as much in the dark as the fans. An ashen faced Brian O’Driscoll could only mutter that the tries conceded in the second half were too soft, and chances weren’t taken. The press didn’t have the heart to push him on it any further, as he spoke of the pain of knowing this was his last world cup game.

This was an easy game to analyse, but the performance graph of this Irish team is hard to comprehend, peaking and flatlining, raising hopes in an instant, then dashing them just as quick. It was painful to watch them chase this game from the opening play, their skills ebbing away as the clock ticked on. They lost to the better side, but can’t be happy with what they put out on the field today.

Wales were almost flawless throughout, their first handling error coming deep into the second half. Ireland were in double figures at that stage. The Welsh were better in every department, but the respective defensive performances best encapsulated the gulf in class. Ireland came into the quarter final as the team with the lowest number of missed tackles in this tournament, but the decisive score from Jonathan Davies saw four defenders stand aside to usher him through.

If Ireland were the daddy long legs bashing against the window, Wales were the wasp. Shane Williams’ try and Rhys Priestland’s opening penalty were their only two visits to the Irish 22 in that period. Ireland dominated posession and territory for long periods, without ever being convincing.

Dropped passes within feet of the Welsh line by Cian Healy and Ronan O’Gara scuppered two golden try opportunities, and in a World Cup quarter final, there was never going to be a surplus of chances.

The tries from Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies were shocking from an Irish perspective, and for all the good Welsh play, those scored dictated how the end game played out, as Irish attackers became more panicked, and as a consequence, less accurate.

In the end, it will be recorded as just another quarter final exit, but this World Cup journey was so much more special than anything that’s gone before. They didn’t do themselves justice in Wellington, but when the dust settles this brilliant generation will be proud of what they’ve done, and those that followed them won’t forget a single second of it.

As it happened: Wales v Ireland>

In pictures: Wales end Ireland’s World Cup dream>

As it happened: England v France>

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