Six Nations 2015: Sam Warburton hails satisfying win over Ireland
Wales captain left exhausted by defensive effort as their resolute rearguard second-half performance sealed famous win in Cardiff
Sam Warburton described Wales’ 23-16 win over Ireland at the Millennium Stadium as one of his career highlights.
The Cardiff Blues flanker, who set a new record when he led Wales out for the 34th time, was a notable threat at the lineout and made 30 tackles as Wales soaked up everything their opponents could throw at them, and he could have had an even greater impact had he not been yellow carded in the first half.
It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in a Wales shirt, so I’m extremely happy with that.
Wales captain Sam Warburton on win over Ireland
Not only did the victory end Ireland’s Grand Slam dream, it has set up a three-way shoot-out for the RBS 6 Nations in the final round next week, with Wales’ impressive three successive wins putting them in contention along with Ireland and England.
For the Wales captain, the victory was up there with there with their 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final win over the Irish and their 30-3 win over England to steal the 2013 title against the odds.
“That was as satisfying as the win we had against South Africa in the autumn, England in 2013, and probably the quarter-final against Ireland in 2011,” Warburton said.
“And that’s because Ireland are that good; they had won 10 in a row, and they are third in the world.
“So we knew it had to be one of our very best performances that we’ve had to get a win today.
“They were chasing a Grand Slam, and they had all the motivation in the world as well.”
“I was on the floor at the end of the game, I looked up and I saw Wayne Barnes’ arm rise for our side, and I just punched the air on the floor.
“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in a Wales shirt, so I’m extremely happy with that.”
Wales took the lead in the second minute when Ireland were penalised for not rolling away and Leigh Halfpenny landed the first of five penalties.
It was a lead that Warren Gatland’s men never looked like squandering, despite the intense pressure they were under in the second half as Ireland lay siege to the Wales tryline.
They just kept coming and went so many phases and defensive sets; the second half was probably one of the most exhausted I’ve been ever in an international match.
Sam Warburton on Wales’ monumental defensive stand
Ireland outside-half Johnny Sexton kept his side in the game with three first-half penalties, but Dan Biggar’s late drop goal gave Wales a 15-9 lead at the break.
The monumental defensive effort saw Wales see off 45 phases of play in their 22 over a eight minute period early in the second half before replacement centre Scott Williams pounced on a miscommunication between Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Bowe to ghost through the Irish defence for the opening try.
Ireland hit back with a penalty try, but Halfpenny landed his final kick minutes later and Wales out for a famous win in what was the most entertaining of this year’s championship with man of the match Warburton and fellow forward Luke Charteris accounting for more than 50 tackles as Wales set a new Six Nations record of 250.
“The reason we made that many tackles was because Ireland kept the ball extremely well,” he added.
“Particularly in the second half, they just kept coming and went so many phases and defensive sets; the second half was probably one of the most exhausted I’ve been ever in an international match.
“And the players were still talking to get up on your feet; the attitude and defensive effort was second to none.
“Shaun [Edwards] has gone into detail in the week to cover their trick plays and what they do in attack. The boys took on all that information and detail, and it definitely paid off.
“Certain matches you can tell the players are extremely focused.
“You could tell it was one of those days where everyone was so desperate to get the result, going down to breakfast today, so it was so satisfying to get that in the end.”