Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Awesome Wales claim semis berth

Jonathan Davies (right)

Wales stormed into the World Cup semi-finals with a resounding 22-10 victory over Ireland in an epic showdown at Wellington Regional Stadium.

Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies scored tries to steer the Welsh into the last four of the tournament for the first time since 1987.

Keith Earls crossed for Ireland while Ronan O'Gara kicked a penalty and conversion, but they were well beaten.

Wales made a scintillating start, scorching ahead inside three minutes following a sustained passage of play that had the blockbusting Jamie Roberts as its central figure.

Twice Roberts ran aggressively at the Irish defence, the second time leaving Ireland lock Donncha O'Callaghan reeling from the effects of trying to stop him, and when possession was moved wide Leigh Halfpenny sent Williams over.

Ireland, though, responded by laying siege to Wales' 22, testing their opponents' defensive structure, but some thunderously-committed tackling ensured Wales stayed ahead approaching the end of a frantic opening quarter.

O'Gara and Halfpenny exchanges penalties as an absorbing half came to a close, but Ireland blasted out of the blocks from the restart, piling into rucks at breakneck pace, and such commitment was rewarded when they drew level after 45 minutes.

Lock Paul O'Connell played a pivotal role, smashing into the heart of Wales' defence, and despite a wayward pass from scrum-half Conor Murray, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe managed to work Earls clear. The Munster wing had just enough in the tank to get there, touching down despite Phillips' attempted tackle.

O'Gara made the touchline conversion attempt look easy, and with Ireland level at 10-10, the game was once again balanced on a knife edge. But Wales responded magnificently, reclaiming the lead in opportunist fashion just six minutes later after brilliant work by Phillips.

The livewire number nine collected possession from a ruck, and spotting a gap in Ireland's defence he went for broke, diving over the line and touching down one-handed for a try. Wales struck again 16 minutes from time after initial high-class work by Phillips, and Davies predictably showed Ireland prop Cian Healy a clean pair of heels.