Ireland pulled off a 27-12 victory against Wales at Croke Park on Saturday, giving the Boys in Green a slim chance for a Six Nations title if undefeated tournament leader France loses a match.
AFP - Ireland marked Brian O'Driscoll's 100th cap for his country with a 27-12 Six Nations victory against Wales at Croke Park here on Saturday.
Victory saw champions Ireland keep alive their hopes of a successful title defence and stay on course for a Triple Crown when they play Scotland here in next week's final round of fixtures.
But Wales's third defeat in four matches left them in danger of finishing bottom of the table.
Ireland scored three tries, two from left wing Keith Earls and one from scrum-half Tomas O'Leary, while all Wales had to show for their efforts were four Stephen Jones penalties.
The match turned in the 25th minute when Wales full-back Lee Byrne was sin-binned for killing the ball and, soon afterwards, Ireland capitalised on their man advantage to score the game's first two tries.
A quickly taken tap penalty from O'Leary, when many might have been expecting a shot at the posts, caught Wales napping.
He passed to lock Paul O'Connell, who in turn found O'Driscoll.
The centre's well-timed pass was taken at full-tilt by Earls who burst through Stephen Jones's attempted tackle for a smart try.
Jonathan Sexton, however, missed the straightforward conversion when the ball hit the left post.
And on the half hour, 11-3 became 16-3 when, off a ruck, the impressive O'Leary burst down the left touchline through a huge hole in the Welsh defence and then broke wing Leigh Halfpenny's attempted tackle.
Sexton missed the difficult conversion.
But, for the fourth straight match Wales - who were behind 20-3 against England, 21-9 against Scotland (a game they eventually won 31-24) and 20-0 against France - had another mountain to climb.
And it was Earls who sealed the latest defeat for a Wales side coached by former Ireland boss Warren Gatland on the hour mark.
Ireland lock Donncha O'Callaghan won a lineout from which O'Leary delivered a dreadful pass to O'Driscoll.
But O'Driscoll demonstrated brilliant handling skills to gather the loose ball and release the looping O'Leary.
He in turn found Earls, who went in at the corner despite the best efforts of Wales wing Shane Williams.
Sexton then capped victory with a late drop-goal.
Earlier O'Drisoll ran on to a standing ovation from a Croke Park crowd of over 81,000.
Sexton pulled a third minute penalty to the left of the posts and then conceded a simple one which let opposing No 10 Stephen Jones kick Wales into a 3-0 lead before the Ireland stand-off equalised.
A quick lineout, - Ireland won several balls off Wales's throw - where the athletic Jamie Heaslip won possession, led to an attack and when Wales flanker Jonathan Thomas went in off his feet, Sexton landed a 35 metre penalty effort.
Wales dominated the early stages but when Ireland did get out of their own half they looked dangerous with Tommy Bowe scything through the Welsh defence on an inside ball from Sexton which led to another successful Irish penalty.
Restored to 15 players after Ireland's try-double, Wales laid siege to rhe hosts' line and their pressure led to an easy penalty that reduced the lead to 16-6.
Early in the second half, Irish infringements then saw Wales opt for two successive scrum penalties, rather than goal-kicks but Ireland put in a huge shove at the second and Sexton cleared downfield to huge cheers from the home crowd.
Another excellent kick, this time from Earls, took Ireland deep into Welsh territory. Byrne took the ball into touch but was then penalised for throwing the ball away.
Sexton, putting his previous misses behind him, kicked the tricky penalty from wide out on the left. Ireland were 19-6 ahead and on their way to victory.
Date created : 2010-03-13