Rugby World Cup 2011: Sublime Wales beat Ireland
Wales produced a relentless performance against Ireland to seal their place in next week's semi-finals
Wales booked their place in the World Cup semi-finals with a stunning performance against Ireland on Saturday in Wellignton.
Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies all touched down to hand Wales victory while their defence, led by captain Sam Warburton, resisted wave after wave of Irish attacks.
The omens were ominous for Ireland before the match had even started when the men in red belted out the Land of My Fathers with such ferocity that Warren Gatland’s team looked assured that their destiny lay in the last four.
And within two minutes Wales landed their first blow to Irish hopes, securing the turnover and barging their way towards the tryline. The move reached it’s climax with Williams as the main protagonist, escaping the attentions of Keith Earls and scoring the opening try.
Rhys Priestland made no mistake with his conversion, punishing Ireland for a hesitant start.
Ireland tried to respond and Stephen Ferris carried the ball over the Welsh 22 until he was halted by George North ““ the Ulsterman was rewarded for his burst of pace, gaining a penalty as North failed to roll away from the tackle.
Brian O’Driscoll instructed his fly-half Ronan O’Gara to kick for touch, opting to captilise on their positon deep in Welsh territory. But it was a gamble which failed to pay dividends as the opposition stood firm.
Ireland gained another penalty yards from the Welsh line and O’Gara kicked for the line-out again but Donncha O’Callaghan was halted by an irrepressible wall of red shirts.
After 23 minutes, Ireland finally registered their first points of the match as O’Gara kicked for goal to narrow Wales’ lead.
But Wales soon reclaimed their seven point advantage when Priestland landed a mammoth penalty kick from the halfway line just before the interval.
Declan Kidney’s side emerged from the half-time break looking sharper, and Earls was able to dive over the line despite a last-ditch tackle from Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips.
The match was levelled at 10-10 when O’Gara angled his kick between the posts from an acute angle.
However, any sniff of an Ireland comeback was ruthlessly eliminated by Wales as they ramped up the pressure.
Phillips collected the ball and darted past Gordon D’Arcy into the corner to push Wales back into the lead at 15-10.
And, with 15 minutes remaining, a lacklustre Ireland defence succumbed to another supreme Welsh move as Davies barged past three men in green to place the ball over the line, allowing Priestland to convert.
Kidney introduced Leinster duo Jonathon Sexton and Eoin Reddan in search of inspiration but mistakes hindered any prospect of a memorable comeback.
Ireland mounted a final assault on the Welsh tryline when Rob Kearney made ground, eluding a number of tackles and offloading to Cian Healy.
But the prop was halted just short of the line and skipper O’Driscoll was penalised for a fumble, relieving pressure on the Welsh defence.
Priestland fired two late penalties against the upright but his misses proved insignificant as Wales booked their place in next week’s semi-final at Eden Park.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); George North (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Dragons) Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), Toby Faletau (Dragons).
Replacements: Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues, for Charteris, 40), James Hook (Perpignan, for Priestland, 77).
Ireland: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster, capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster); Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Conor Murray (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: Donncha Ryan (Munster, for Heaslip, 74), Denis Leamy (Munster, for Ferris, 74), Eoin Reddan (Leinster, for Murray, 55), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster, for O’Gara, 55), Andrew Trimble (Ulster, for Earls, 71).