Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Against Ireland, Wales Finds a Way ; Behind and Shorthanded, Welsh Side Makes Most of Last Minutes to Win

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Against Ireland, Wales Finds a Way ; Behind and Shorthanded, Welsh Side Makes Most of Last Minutes to Win

Article excerpt

It appeared that Ireland had secured a victory against Wales with just a few minutes to go in their 6 Nations game on Sunday, but for the third time in a year, the Welsh found a way to win.

Against any other opponent, Ireland is probably a better bet than Wales. The Irish beat Australia at the World Cup last year, but Wales has since lost to it twice. Victory over Wales launched England toward the 2011 European Six Nations championship, but defeat by Ireland wrecked its chances of a five-win "Grand Slam."

But when the two Celtic nations go head to head, it is a different matter. They have met three times in the last year -- twice in the Six Nations and once at the World Cup. Each time Wales has won.

The third win came on Sunday in Dublin, concluding the opening weekend of the 2012 Six Nations with by far the most compelling contest of the round. Ireland must wonder how it lost. It led 21-15 with 12 minutes to go when Tommy Bowe, an Irishman who plays his club rugby in Wales, crossed on the far right. Wales was also down to 14 men with its forward Bradley Davies serving a 10-minute exclusion for a dangerous tackle.

Had Jonathan Sexton of Ireland converted a long-range penalty five minutes later, the match would have been settled. His miss left Wales a tiny window of opportunity through which it scrambled by stages.

Winger George North scored on the left, forcing the ball down against the resistance of two Irish tacklers, to cut the margin to a point. Then in the final minute, Wales was awarded a penalty kick. "It was the hardest kick I've had to take in my life" said the full- back Leigh Halfpenny, who knew the result rested on it. He was on target and took Wales into the lead decisively in a grippingly fluctuating contest.

With its 23-21 victory over Ireland, Wales was the big winner of the weekend. The team, transformed since the World Cup, was missing several first-choice players for the tough trip to Dublin. But two tries from the center-threequarter Jonathan Davies and a colossal performance by a former captain, Ryan Jones, who would not even have been playing but for injuries, mean it is now strongly placed for a campaign in which three of its four remaining matches are at home. …

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