The Irish drew first blood when a rolling maul moved to the shadow of the goalposts. Slick handling put John Hearty in possession and the wing dived over in the corner for an unconverted try. The game had reached the end of the first quarter before the Welsh were able to reply, their hooker, Huw Bennett scoring for Nick Robinson to convert.
Kieran Potts, Niall Ronan and Stephen Keogh were everywhere in defence for Ireland. Winning an equal share of the ball up-front, Ireland elected at this stage for more of a kicking game from outside half, David McAllister. But, he was unable to land a couple of reasonable penalty
Keith Matthews showed strength in going down the middle and another passing movement from the Irish backs ended with Richard Lane’s punt finishing just over the goal-line.
Wales lost a man for 10 minutes when Robin Sowden-Taylor was sent to the sinbin for killing the ball but again McAllister failed to land the penalty.
The half-time score was Wales 7-5 in Wales’ favour but immediately on the restart, Wales went through a purple patch. Robinson converted his own try under the posts and added two penalties to put Wales in a seemingly safe position at 20-5.
A fine break from Niall Ronan should have brought another try for Ireland, but the flanker was unable to time his scoring pass and the chance was lost.
The visitors also lost a man to the sinbin when lock David Gannon was yellow-carded by the Italian referee.
Suddenly it was Ireland’s turn to rattle the scoreboard. Tries from Keith Matthews and Richard Lane, the second after a run in from the halfway line, were both converted by
Within two minutes, the Welsh lead had been reduced from 20-5 to 20-19. Ireland had a couple of late chances to pull the game out of the fire, but by this time the Welsh defence was too well organised and they had to give second best.
Irish coach, former international Michael Bradley said afterwards: “We had enough opportunities to win this game comfortably. We thought we would be stronger up front and that their backs would be better than ours. And that’s how it turned out.
“Those missed place kicks cost us dearly. France will provide a stiff final hurdle for Wales before they win the Grand Slam.”
Commented Chris Davey, the Welsh coach: “We failed to get the final pass away on a number of occasions and should have scored several more tries.
“We were frequently at a loss to understand the referee’s decisions. We seem to be more worried about not losing that about winning properly. But we shall go to France full of confidence after beating Ireland, Italy, Scotland and England.”
Scorers: Wales; H. Bennett, N. Robinson a try each, conversions N. Robinson 2; penalties N. Robinson 2.
Ireland; J. Haty, K. Mathews, R. Lane a try each, D. McAllister 2 cons.
WALES: G. Swales, W. Kirshaw-Naylor, J. Vaughton, G. Henson, M. Nuttall, N. Robinson, M. Phillips, P. James (capt.), H. Bennett, R. Thomas, B. Griffiths, J. Thomas, M. Lewis, R. Sowden-Taylor, J. Malpass. replacements; N. Brew for Vaughton, R. Pugh for R. Sowden-Taylor.
IRELAND: T. Bowe, R. Lane, B. Murphy, K. Mathews, J. Harty, D. McAllister, F. O’Loughlin, J. Lyne, R. Best, D. Fitzpatrick, D. Gannon, N. McCombe, C. Potts, N. Ronan, S. Keogh (capt.). Replacements; S. O’Connor for McCombe, J. Muldoon for C. Potts.
Referee A. Lombardi (Italy).