Ireland takes hard lesson in RWC quarterfinal loss
Updated: October 08, 2011, 06:33
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Ireland came to Wellington believing its performances at the pool stage had showed it was ready for its first appearance in the Rugby World Cup semifinals.
It left with a fifth loss from five quarterfinals, knowing that previous results count for nothing when it comes to knockout rugby.
"You are not promised anything,'' Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said dejectedly. "In the last four games we've played, we've produced two decent performances and two OK performances, so you aren't owed anything. You have to go and earn everything you get. That's rugby.
"And today we were off the pace and we go home as a result of that.''
No more dreams of glory, no more being the neutrals' favorite and no more armies of green-clad fans invading each city the teams play in like a benevolent, beer-swilling occupying force.
Instead, it is Wales through to a semifinal against France after Saturday's 22-10 victory.
Ireland had finished top of its pool, beating two-time champion Australia 15-6 and pounding Six Nations rival Italy 36-6.
The Irish played attacking rugby again Saturday but found themselves facing a ferocious defense and were outscored three tries to one. They also made some questionable tactical decisions, opting to kick penalties for touch three times early in the first half rather than going for the points.
"I don't think we played very badly,'' wing Tommy Bowe said. "I think we could have been a little smarter when we got down there and a bit more patient. We seemed to get a little try line fever, I suppose, when we saw the white wash.''
Although Bowe said he thought Wales grew in confidence as the match wore on, he acknowledged that it was the start that had made the big difference.
"We were confident coming into the match today, but we have no qualms,'' wing Tommy Bowe said. "Wales came at us for the first 10 minutes with an intensity that caught us on the hop. We were camped on their lines for so long, but we just couldn't seem to get over the white wash.
"And we maybe coughed up the ball a few times under pressure.''
Prop Mike Ross said it was "gut-wrenching'' the team couldn't win.
"We had decent perform behind us,'' Ross said. "We generally play well against the Welsh, you have to back yourself. I think Wales have proved to be a very good team.''
Several members of the team said it will take a while for them to get over the loss and to find the positives in what Ireland achieved during the World Cup, including beating a southern hemisphere team and finishing top of their pool.
"I think we had a real opportunity to get into the semifinals for the first time in our history,'' Bowe said. "And there's a lot of players, and people in Ireland I'm sure, who are very disappointed by it.''
But one thing the players said they were able to celebrate was the enormous amount of support the team enjoyed on its travels through New Zealand.
"It's absolutely staggering, to be honest,'' Ross said. "There's a recession back home, that's probably why there's so many people out here, looking for jobs.
"And for them to put their hands in their pockets to come and follow us is fantastic.''