Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Wales captain Sam Warburton beaming after win

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 08: A Wales fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the quarter final one of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup between Ireland v Wales at Wellington Regional Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Captain Sam Warburton hailed Wales' progression to the World Cup semi-finals as a "massive achievement" following their 22-10 quarter-final success over Ireland in Wellington.

Tries from Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies, plus a penalty from Leigh Halfpenny and two conversions from Rhys Priestland, helped Warren Gatland's men reach the last four of the global showpiece for the first time since 1987.

Wales stifled Ireland's back-row of Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip and flanker Warburton praised their defensive effort.

He told ITV1: "It was a massive performance, we knew they had a lot of big ball carriers and there was a lot of tackling stopping them on the gain line because they are dangerous, it was a fantastic defensive effort."

Wales were never behind after Williams' 56th try for his country inside the opening few minutes, and Warburton claimed making a quick start had been a focus of their preparations.

"We always say we don't start good enough, and we started perfectly today and it was just what we wanted. It's easier to be ahead of the game than chasing it. It's a massive achievement and we have worked so hard.

"The team in 1987 did it (reached the last four) and got third place. But we have the semi next week, the boys are thrilled and it's a massive achievement, it's brilliant."

Try scorer Phillips added: "It's an historic win, the boys have been outstanding in the lead up to this game. We have so much respect for the Irish boys and I feel sorry for them. They are great players and outstanding gentlemen but we were superb today."

Ireland responded with a try from Keith Earls and five points from Ronan O'Gara's boot but they were almost always chasing the game and defeat signals the end of the World Cup road for the likes of O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and captain Brian O'Driscoll.

And O'Driscoll said: "We got outplayed in the second half, they scored two good tries, maybe there was some weak defence but we are very disappointed to be going home.

"It was a great opportunity after winning the group but they proved worthy semi-finalists and good luck to them.

"We needed to deliver a performance similar to against Australia or Italy last week, but we didn't, we knocked on too much ball and when you turn too much ball over against quality of opposition they make you pay and we are the ones left disappointed."

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