Written by RUGBYMag Staff    Saturday, 08 October 2011 11:21    PDF Print Write e-mail
Wales over Ireland in Quarterfinals
International - Rugby World Cup

WELLINGTON, 8 Oct. - A Wales side playing "without fear" defended their way to a Rugby World Cup semi-final by standing up to a muscular Ireland to win the first quarter-final 22-10 on Saturday.

Wales coach Warren Gatland said the younger players in his side were unaffected by the past and benefited from the solid foundation of hard work laid down in the pre-season.

"They have no baggage and there's no fear factor," Gatland said. "We are in New Zealand and not in the bubble of Wales and listening to any of the negativity that is sometimes generated back home.

"We've worked so hard in the last three, four months. We aren't ready to go home yet."

Wales's three tries to Ireland's one was a true reflection of the attacking abilities of the two sides, although not of Ireland's first-half dominance of territory and possession at Wellington Regional Stadium.

Three times they shunned early penalty shots at goal to look for tries, but Wales were equal to them.

"We spent a lot of time in that first half in their 22 and we only came up with three points in the half," said Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll.

"It hurts a bit when you're going in at half-time having the opportunities and knocking on the door but not really getting any points out of the territory."

Caught napping

Ireland had 60 per cent of the territory and 57 per cent of possession in the first half but their bludgeoning and battering of the Wales defence produced a solitary penalty goal after Wales had opened the match with a spectacular Shane Williams winger's try.

Ireland drew level early in the second half when wing Keith Earls somehow managed to keep his feet in play while sliding over in the corner.

But the match turned Wales's way when man-of-the-match Mike Phillips caught Ireland napping down the blindside of a ruck - a trademark of the France-based scrum half's play.

When Wales outside centre Jonathan Davies scored by first eluding some tiring forwards in front of him and then clapping on the pace to outstrip the cover defence, the match - and a place in the semi-finals for the first time since 1987 - was theirs.

The try had in part been created by a typically powerful run further infield by Davies's centre partner Jamie Roberts, who soaked up defenders all night.

In the second half, the territory evened out at 50-50 and Ireland's control of possession was pared back to 54 per cent, but by then the Irish had run out of time and ideas and been let down too often by their handling.

Typically gracious

Wales had to make 141 tackles in the match and missed only 11, while Ireland made 93 but missed 14. Ireland's lineout also faltered at crucial times, losing three on their own throw.

Shane Williams was bullish about Wales's chances of further progression, saying: "Some people thought I was being funny when I said we were coming here to win it, but I wasn't."

A majority of the crowd of 35,787 were solidly behind Ireland, but their support was not enough to stave off a fifth defeat in five quarter-final appearances at Rugby World Cups.

O'Driscoll was typically gracious in defeat, acknowledging that Wales had taken their opportunities where his side did not.

"It was a great opportunity for us winning the group, but they showed they are worthy semi-finalists, good luck to them.

"We needed to deliver a performance similar to the one against Australia or the one against Italy last week. We didn't do that today, we knocked on way too much ball.

"Collectively and personally I won't get this opportunity again and that really sucks. But you know, life goes on."