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A Tense Affair
Wales Win A Tight One
Posted Mar 18, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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There have been far more visually attractive performances in this Six Nations tournament so far, but you can be sure that the tension exhibited in the fixture between Wales and Ireland has certainly not been matched by any other teams.
It’s inevitable that despite the rest of the match, the complete howler of a decision that gave the Welsh their lead will be the point best remembered. Ten minutes into the second half, Jonathan Sexton came on to replace Ronan O’Gara and his first act was to kick the ball out, and then a quickly taken line-out led to Mike Phillips pelting down the touchline in order to score. Fair enough, you might say. The Irish complaint was that the Welsh had utilised a different ball from the one that had been kicked off the pitch: a charge that was obviously legitimate to everyone watching at home (and probably everyone watching from the stands). Brian O’Driscoll later labelled the mistake ‘unforgivable’.
However, whilst the decision was a shocker, Ireland would be better off avoiding attaching complete blame to it for the defeat. Despite the outrage against the decision causing a furious final push, they were unable to compensate for what was in general a very below par performance that didn’t really warrant any points in the first place.
The simple fact is that a lot of the more senior players are fighting not only with their opponents, but also with old father time. They lack the bursts of energy that the other, younger sides seem to have in abundance and have visibly suffered for it during the whole tournament. Paul O’Connell is no longer able to perform consistently at this level, despite his being the go-to guy for the last ten years and more. Just like a lot of his team-mates, his energy levels are unable to match the obvious power that he still carries.
Wales, for their part, acquitted themselves fairly well. The forward line looked titanic for much of the match, launching attack after attack down the right hand side. Only Fitzgerald and Bowe prevented this dominant passage from giving Wales a far more brutal victory than the scoreline suggested.
In the end, the game will likely be remembered for the controversy, but the Irish shouldn’t let one appalling decision prevent them from looking in the mirror and facing the problems that are beginning to creep up on them.