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Six Nations: Schmidt vows that Irish will end campaign on high with rousing show against England

By Jonathan Bradley

Joe Schmidt was left ruing the fine margins after watching his side fall to a 22-9 defeat to Wales in Cardiff last night.

Ireland now have no hope of winning the Six Nations Championship after a pulsating game that saw them create plenty of opportunities, only to let them go begging while Wales took advantage of a yellow card for Johnny Sexton either side of half-time.

"The yellow card was crucial," said the Kiwi head coach.

"Ten points in 10 minutes. I feel sorry for Johnny, he's trapped in by three players and can't get out but, that close to the line, that's sometimes what happens.

"The penalty count the way it was, and us copping a yellow card, that's tough but we know in that area it's always a risk.

"I think Wales were pretty clever in what they did and made it very difficult for us."

Ireland wasted a gilt-edged chance to take the lead late on, when Rory Best crossed the line but Robbie Henshaw was pinged for illegally joining the maul.

It was not the only wasted chance that frustrated Schmidt.

"The fine margins, obviously the line-out drive at 15-9, if we score that and convert, we're one point ahead and they're chasing the game," he said.

"The chargedown, the ball slips through the fingers and he might have gone close to scoring. Even in the first-half, I felt they were a bit lucky when CJ went up the touchline.

"They're all very fine margins and you have to have them on your side playing a Welsh side as good as they are and as desperate as they are.

"Their set-piece was strong, their defence is always strong and they attacked well.

"When Johnny went off, they attacked straight through his area and it's something that we'll learn from. The guys that came into the game, it's a real opportunity for Marmion in a Test match of that magnitude, and he did really well. Paddy Jackson came on and kicked a crucial goal and did some pretty good things later in the game."

Ireland must now rouse themselves for the visit of England to Dublin next weekend, with Schmidt saying there is still much to play for even with the championship gone.

"You can wallow in self-pity or you can build from this and with what we've got coming up next week we can't afford to wallow for too long," he said.

"It's a huge opportunity for us to finish in the top half of the Six Nations and that's something incredibly important for us even if we're not in the hunt to win the championship."

Schmidt also revealed that Ulster's Tommy Bowe required an x-ray after sustaining a lower leg injury only seconds after coming on.

Man of the match Rhys Webb admitted he was nervous in the closing stages as he watched from the sidelines.

Webb had put in a commanding display from scrum-half, having a hand in George North's tries in either half, before being substituted in the second period.

Yet with the match still in the balance late on, substitute Jamie Roberts crashed over to seal victory and give Wales their second win of this championship - and a first success in three fixtures.

Webb said: "I was pretty nervous at the end but I know from the last three games there have been fine margins.

"We know we were only one performance away from winning a game. Credit to the boys. We played for a full 80 minutes and put in a hell of a shift against a quality Ireland side.

"We owe a lot to the coaches but in fairness they've been backing us to play and backing our ability.

"We've certainly shown glimpses of what we can do."

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