Howley rues sluggish start


Rugby:Interim head coach Rob Howley bemoaned a nightmare start to Wales’ Six Nations title defence after his side’s comeback effort fell short in a 30-22 defeat to Ireland in Cardiff. Last year’s Grand Slam winners were left reeling by an accurate and clinical first-half display from the visitors.

Wales trailed by 30 points to three early in the second half as tries from Simon Zebo, Cian Healy and the magnificent Brian O’Driscoll put Ireland in command. The hosts bravely rallied but they had left themselves far too much to do and tries from Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig Mitchell were not enough to prevent an eighth successive defeat.

The reverse also marked the first time Wales have lost five straight matches at home. Howley said: “It is frustrating and disappointing. With the way we started we allowed Ireland a foothold. The key in any international game is territory and possession and we came second by a very long way.

“Ireland’s kicking game, combined with our lack of accuracy at the contact area, allowed them field position, the pressure built and built and built and they took their opportunities. On the other hand, in the second half we played a lot of good rugby, had a good impact off the bench and scored three tries.

“But in that first 20 minutes we need to focus. We spoke all week about starting well and we didn’t.”

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