Six Nations 2012: Ireland rue late errors in 23-21 defeat by Wales
Declan Kidney was left to rue Ireland's indiscipline as Wales mounted a late comeback to win 23-21 in Dublin
Declan Kidney blamed late errors for Ireland’s demoralising 23-21 defeat by Wales in their Six Nations opener at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
Leigh Halfpenny, who had taken over kicking duties from Rhys Priestland, scored a last-gasp penalty after Ireland’s Stephen Ferris was penalised 30 metres out from the Irish posts.
It capped a rousing Welsh comeback after they had trailed 21-15 before George North crossed for a crucial try and Halfpenny completed the visitors’ revival in the 79th minute.
“It is extremely disappointing. We had a lead early in the second half but we did not build on it,” said Ireland coach Kidney.
“When we do press ahead we have to go for the jugular. We are going to have to look at being more ruthless.”
Despite Jonathan Sexton’s fourth-minute penalty, it was Wales who started the brighter – and when Ryan Jones was bundled over the line, the away side thought they had their opening try – but replays proved inconclusive and Ireland’s slender lead remained intact.
Jonathan Davies then deservedly scored Wales’ first try in the 14th minute after great work from Mike Phillips down the right saw the visitors capitalise on their numerical advantage and register their first points.
Priestland missed the conversion and it set the tone for the Scarlets fly-half’s afternoon as he missed a penalty shortly after.
And Ireland punished Wales’ wasteful play when Rory Best scored the home side’s opening try, which Sexton duly converted to give Kidney’s side a 10-5 lead at half-time.
Two minutes after the break, Sexton extended Ireland’s advantage by another three points to put the Irish in charge, but Wales soaked up the pressure and struck back as North released Davies for his second try of the afternoon.
But the drama was far from over as Sexton hit back with another penalty before a superb pass from the impressive Rob Kearney allowed Tommy Bowe to touch down and put Ireland 21-15 ahead with 13 minutes remaining.
Wales, who beat Ireland in the World Cup quarter-finals back in October, responded as Ian Evans burst past three tackles to tee up North, who crossed the line unchallenged.
Halfpenny then completed a simple conversion – and Wales sealed the win after Ferris’ sloppy error allowed Halfpenny to kick a late penalty.
“We’ve got a massive game against Scotland next Sunday,” said Wales coach Gatland. “We’re dangerous when we’re playing with confidence and we have a few players to come back from injury. Gethin Jenkins, I think, will be available and Alun Wyn Jones isn’t too far away.”