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Devastated Rory Best faces up to end of Irish Six Nations dream

Ulsterman is gutted as Welsh power to victory

By Jonathan Bradley in Cardiff

Distraught captain Rory Best described Ireland as "devastated" after his side's Six Nations title hopes went up in smoke in the Principality Stadium last night.

Joe Schmidt's men made the trip to Cardiff as favourites for the win, but a Wales side determined to make amends for a poor championship to date came away with a 22-9 victory after two tries from George North and a late effort from Jamie Roberts.

"It's devastating," admitted the defeated skipper.

"We came here expecting to win, we knew we had the quality to win.

"We knew it was going to be a really tough ask and tough game but we'll look back at that on Sunday night."

Despite coming in as hot favourites, and anticipating a victory themselves, Best was quick to dismiss any notion that Wales had been underestimated by the visitors, saying the men in green were always aware of the quality possessed by Rob Howley's side.

"I think certainly all week, we were saying that we knew that Wales were a real quality side," added the Ulsterman.

"You look at their team, the performance against England, the first half against Scotland, you can see that they're quality players.

"We know that from playing them week in, and week out in the PRO12.

"We weren't saying there was any type of demise."

Best added: "We knew this would be a really tough Test match. That's how it proved to be. Joe said it would come down to fine margins and we hoped we would get enough going our way but we didn't.

"We made a few individual errors but they put a lot of pressure on us."

One area where Wales made life very difficult for Ireland was in the lineout, where Best saw three of his throws from touch pinched, twice by his fellow 2013 British and Irish Lion Alun Wyn Jones.

With one steal coming when Ireland were just five metres from the line - the visitors also saw another maul attempt count for nothing when Best crossed the whitewash but only after Robbie Henshaw joined from the side - the Ulsterman was left to rue a number of costly errors.

"The one on the line they just read it, we tried to sneak Seanie (Sean O'Brien) in there and Alun Wyn Jones came through and over the top," he said. "There were a few going backwards that he was chasing over the top.

"They are a good defensive lineout and we're disappointed to lose those couple.

"It's hugely frustrating to lose these games. Now we have a reasonable level of consistency but on our off days we just make a couple of unforced errors.

"That costs you dearly. In terms of consistency, we strive to be better and win the next moment. In terms of overall performances, we do get a reasonable level, it's just those silly errors."

Wales coach Rob Howley said: "We knew there would be a reaction and against one of the best sides you have to play like that with and without the ball.

"I'm delighted for the players, they have taken a lot of stick and we beat Ireland emphatically.

"George North? When you praise them too much they sit back, if you criticise them too much they go into their shell so it's a fine balance.

"It was a great advert for Six Nations rugby. I'm delighted and proud. Between 68 and 72 minutes was the key, we held Ireland up, had a fortunate penalty and got out of trouble."

Belfast Telegraph

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