Ireland hold on against Wales

Sat, Feb 2, 2013, 00:00

Wales 22 Ireland 30:Ireland survived a second half onslaught that will live long in the memory but ultimately did enough before the break to put the result beyond Wales. A punishing but thrilling encounter went the way of Declan Kidney’s side with the old warhorse Brian O’Driscoll leading once more from the front.

First half scores from Simon Zebo and Cian Healy opening a healthy advantage before O’Driscoll dotted down shortly after the interval to open an insurmountable 30-3 lead. After that, it was all about Wales with Ireland forced to defend heroically – and often illegally – but despite scoring three tries of their own the home side were unable to get back on terms.

They stirred through touchdowns from wing Alex Cuthbert, full-back Leigh Halfpenny and substitute prop Craig Mitchell during a frantic second period when Ireland saw hooker Rory Best and scrumhalf Conor Murray sin-binned. But ultimately left themselves with far too much to do as Ireland, despite playing almost the entire second period inside their own half, scored 30 points in Cardiff for the first time since 2001.

They condemned the Grand Slam champions to an eighth successive defeat — and a fifth Millennium Stadium reversal on the bounce — with interim head coach Rob Howley still searching for a first win against another test-playing country.

After such a bruising encounter, Ireland will have plenty of weary bodies ahead of next Sunday’s meeting with England but will reflect tonight on a deserved win despite conceding 19 unanswered points after the 43rd minute. It was Wales’ first Six Nations loss since March 2011, but Ireland, in contrast, now have critical momentum that could drive them all the way to silverware in a tournament they last won four years ago.

Both teams launched their Six Nations campaigns on the back of considerable injury problems.