Wales break Irish hearts to seal semi final spot

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Ireland 10 – 22 Wales
Shane Williams 3min (Try)
Rhys Priestland 4min (conversion)
Ronan O’Gara 24min (Penalty)
Leigh Halfpenny 28min (Penalty)
Keith Earls 44min (Try)
Ronan O’Gara conversion 45 min (Conversion)
Mike Phillips 51min (Try)
Jonathan Davies 64min (Try)
Rhys Priestland 66min (conversion)

Full time played

Full time Wales are through to a semi final clash with either France or England after a dominant second half. Keith Earls try early in the second half gave Ireland hope but efforts from the sublime Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies put Wales in control. Tactically Wales got it right and in the end, even though its hard to say, the Welsh deserved their win. Jamie Roberts were fantastic on the night and Warren Gatland will be dreaming off a final. Wales 22 – Ireland 10.
80min Wales in the line out and kick to touch, thats it.
79min Wales have a penalty on half way now.. its nearly over and just tonight, a lot of Irish players could say goodbye to the green shirt tonight too.
78min Ireland turn it over on half way but Wales then do the same.. we’re on half way
77min At this point if you are looking for a man of the match, it has to be Jaime Roberts, unbelievable centre.
76min Its slow ball and its eating down the clock.. Ireland have it, no wait they don’t Wales win it back with a penalty. You have to admire the Welsh defence its been immense.
75min O’Driscoll nearly breaks but his pass is to a Welsh hand, still Ireland have it as they win the line out. COME ON IRELAND.
74min 12 points, 6 minutes. Leamy and Ryan in for Heaslip and Ferris
73min Its off the post again from the Scarlets fly half and another let off, but with 7 minutes is it too little too late
73min Could be game over here as Priestland opts to kick, its in front of the posts but the rain and wind could play a factor.
72min O’Callaghan knocks forward but Priestland kicks downfield and Ireland collects but Wales again win the penalty.
71min Halfpenny with a long kick but it doesn’t go dead and its another 22 drop out. Trimble coming on for Earls
70min Great work in the Line out there as O’Connell win’s it but Wales somehow gather possession. Ireland have it in their own 22.
69min Healy penalised and Wales have a penalty and a chance to clear their lines. Heart is slowly breaking here.
69min One final push lads.. come on. Welsh scrum here on their own 5 metre line
68min Knocked forward and Wales get possession. Great offload from Reddan to O’Brien just before that. Shame. Hopes fading.
67min Ireland response is good but the Welsh defence is strong. They need something from here and soon.
66min Priestland gets the conversion. Ireland have been since they scored the try. They now need two converted tries to win this. – they’ll need to up their game though.
64min TRY!! Ireland’s hopes are slowly fading. Jonathan Davies goes through the tackles like a hot knife through butter.. On no!!
63min Roberts attacks as Wales win the scrum comfortably.
61min Poor from Earls there, he decided to run it but Wales were up on him and his pass to Reddan wasn’t his best and its more pressure now as Wales have the scrum. Some nerves creeping into the Irish game perhaps?
60min Ireland win possession with a good turn over. They needed that. Ferris did well there. Scrum Ireland.
60min Priestland’s kicking from hand has been great, he’s finding his touches and putting pressure on Ireland. Great maturity.
59min As we approach the hour mark, Ireland not getting the possession they did in the first half. Its still a five point game though.
58min LET OFF!! Priestland’s kick comes back off the post and Sexton’s first duty is the gather the ball.
57min Wales get a chance now to make it an 8 point game, Priestland is going to go for the kick. Penalty giving as scrum went down
56min Sexton and Reddan are on with O’Gara and Murray going off. Not being the Munster man’s best day in green but still a big change.
56min Sexton is warming up now and he’s going to come on.
55min O’Gara puts his team mates under pressure with a loose pass, Best tidy’s up but play ends with a scrum to Wales
53min Priestland with a lovely kick to put Ireland under immediate pressure again. Welsh knock forward and a chance of a break
52min Thankfully the conversion is missed, its a 5 point game.
51min TRY!! Wales with a good response as Philips, he’s been a dangerman, goes over for a try. He saw the gap and went for it.
51min Best with a good tackle on Halfpenny, its been an unbelievable game.
50min Ireland lose their first line out of the day as its a lose one from Best. Wales attack now from half way into the Irish half
49min Ireland get the turnover again there as Halfpenny fails to release the ball. Ferris looked to be injured there but he’s back on his feet
47min Great work by Sean O’Brien.. maybe the comparisons with Chuck Norris were true. O’Gara clears, Welsh line out.
45min O’Gara with a lovely conversion from out wide, we’re level 10 a piece. What a 35 minutes we have left.
45min Its been given and the stadium erupts.. Earls created it and finished it, his tackle on Halfpenny creating the chance. Great start to the half
44min TRY!! Earls does brilliantly but its gone to TMO.. is foot in touch? Its a tight call… Good hands by the Irish there
43min Great tackle by Bowe on Halfpenny – Wales under pressure in their 5 minute line, they clear but only to a green shirt
42min Bowe decides to kick when he might have run – Priestland gathers and find’s touch with ease. Assured display so far from the Scarlets man
42min Kearney takes the mark – but his kick doesn’t find touch
41min Second half is underway, news from the Welsh team is that Charteris has been forced off. Welsh line out already and they take it well
Half time Ireland go in at the break 7 points down after a tense, exciting first half. Wales scored early on through the ever green Shane Williams however Ireland have responded well, going close on a number of occassions however the Welsh defense, Jamie Roberts in particular has been very strong. Ronan O’Gara reduced the arrears to four points midway through the half but a long penalty from Leigh Halfpenny restored the Welsh advantage. Still all to play for. Ireland 3 – Wales 10 at the 40 minute mark.
38min Ireland win the ball back after a number of Welsh phases, good defensive work by O’Driscoll. Welsh not releasing, Irish ball.
37min Philips takes a quick one as Wales win a penalty off the scrum, he pushed O’Brien away with ease there. Ireland’s turn to defend now
35min O’Gara over cooks his kick to touch there and its over the line, Welsh scrum on half way. 5 minutes to half time, COME ON IRELAND!!
34min Ireland win the line out, great work but Wales turn it over and get the penalty.
33min Ireland tackled into touch again, Welsh line out in their own half again.
31min Ireland break good hands by O’Callaghan creates quick ball, phase ends with O’Gara kicking low into the Welsh corner, Welsh line out
30min Heaslip is tackled into touch – Welsh defense has been magnificent. Ireland not giving their players support though and making it easy
28min Terrific kick, he made that with inches to spare – Wales lead back to 7, Ireland 3 – Wales 10
27min Halfpenny opts to take the long kick, its a big one
26min Welsh defense is very high and are on Ireland in an instant, the pressure tells as they win the penalty, good Welsh play
25min Kick is too far from Murray and Williams collects but likewise his kick is poor and O’Connell has it
25min O’Driscoll with a kick that’s blocked down, Irish line out in their own half. Best has been solid so far and is again their. Possession secured
24min Penalty!! O’Gara gets Ireland off the mark
22min Lovely break from Phillips, nice feet .. but ball comes to Kearney who makes a break for the line, Welsh defense gets back. Ireland penalty
22min O’Gara finds touch with a lovely kick that time, Welsh line out in their own half
21min Let off as Wales go early into the scrum – Ireland get the penalty
20min O’Connell win’s the line out and again Ireland go for it. Its been a fast start – O’Gara with a kick to the touch but its just out, Welsh possession
19min Halfpenny does well to take the big up and under there from O’Gara with Kearney bearing down on his.
18min Priestland clears the line, Ireland line out just inside the Welsh half
17min Murray and O’Callaghan can’t get over the line and in the end Wales turn it over and clear their lines
16min O’Callaghan with a great take – O’Brien almost gets over but he’s held up. Scrum to Ireland
15min Defense into Attack – great play from D’arcy ends with a penalty to Ireland in the Welsh half, O’Gara kicks to touch.
14min Great interception from O’Driscoll he read that well and he had to.. Irelad have it and D’Arcy breaks to half way with it
13min Wales have it in the Irish 22, North breaks away from a tackle but is bought down.. Wales still have it. lots of tackles going in
11min Knock forward by the Irish – Welsh scrum
10min Poor ball from D’Arcy to no one, Welsh turn over and clear the lines, Irish line out just inside their own half. Good strong Welsh defense
9min Ireland holding onto the ball well but Welsh defense is strong
8min Let off as Wales comes in from the side, Irish penalty. O’Gara again into touch
7min The wind playing a factor as O’Gara kicks again to touch – line out won again and Ireland push but Healy knocks it forward
7min North gives away another penalty, slow ball pick and drive but good work from Ferris
6min Big line out and its won..Ireland attack now deep in Welsh half
5min Penalty Ireland as Wales go off their feet. O’Gara to kick to touch
5min Frantic start to the game, Ireland need to hold the ball for a few minutes now. Williams with a cheeky chip but Murray reads it well
4min Priestland with the conversion, big start for Wales, Ireland need to respond now.
3min TRY!!! Williams goes over in the corner. Ref has gone to the TMO but its a try. What a start for Wales – Williams 56th International try
2min Big up and under which Kearney misses and Roberts collects, Wales have the ball in the Irish half – chance for Wales early on
1min Ronan O’Gara gets us underway – Murray takes an up and under early, nice catch.
0min Minutes to go now, the Irish are making their way onto the pitch. Oh to be in Wellington – atmosphere looks amazing.
0min Good Morning everyone, I hope you all have your cup of tea made and are ready for an epic battle

Ireland (XV v Wales): R Kearney; T Bowe, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, K Earls; R O’Gara, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, S Ferris, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, T Court, D Ryan, D Leamy, E Reddan, J Sexton, A Trimble

Wales (XV v Ireland): L Halfpenny; G North, J Davies, J Roberts, S Williams; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins, H Bennett, A Jones, L Charteris, AW Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, T Faletau.

Replacements: L Burns, P James, B Davies, R Jones, L Williams, J Hook, S Williams

On Saturday morning, Ireland has their date with destiny when they face the other in-form Northern Hemisphere side, Wales, in Wellington at 6am (Irish time) for a place in the semi final of the World cup.

Previously in our World cup preview’s we have talked about maintaining the momentum from the famous win over Australia. The idea being that should we hold on to top spot in Pool C by beating Russia and Italy we would go into what is without a shadow of a doubt the easier side of the draw. As the saying goes “mission accomplished”, the 36-6 win over Italy sealing top spot ahead of the mighty Aussie’s.

Win and they are through to their first ever semi final against either one of England and France, both of whom have yet to garner the right headlines so far in RWC 2011, lose and well they will still go with their heads held high however the “What if” questions will always linger with them.

Never will a team from this Island have a better chance of making a World cup final and with the fans, pundits, sports writers, bloggers and even opposition players jumping on the “Irish to get to the final” bandwagon, one of Declan Kidney’s biggest job’s in the coming day’s will be to manage the growing level of expectation.

Thankfully for Ireland, Kidney is the master of managing expectations and having won a Heineken cup, not to mention a Grand slam, the Cork man will be sure that the players know what exactly is expected of them when they step on the grass in the Wellington Regional stadium.

Wales represents a tough ask for Ireland, they narrowly lost by a point to the reigning World Champions South Africa in their opening pool game but recovered to score an incredible 22 tries in their next three games to ease in to the quarter finals as runners up.

Their defence, especially Jamie Roberts have been strong too, conceding just 34 points and four tries, two against South Africa in the Pool stages.

Ireland trails the Welsh in the try scoring stakes by 6 tries although they have been equally strong defensively, conceding the same number of points. Australia and Italy, their main challengers in the group, only managed to score a total of 12 points and no tries in their games with the Irish, showing just how strong a unit the first choice 15 are.

The team:

Ireland have named an unchanged line up for the clash with Kidney prepared to wait on Rory Best to prove he is over the shoulder injury that forced him off after 60 minutes against Italy. Gordon D’Arcy, who had one of best games in recent years in the green of Ireland against the Italian’s, will once again partner Brian O’Driscoll, with the pair set to play together in the centre for a record 47th match.

The key to an Ireland victory could rest on the shoulders of the much lauded back row trio of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris. All three have grown in stature as the tournament has progressed with O’Brien in particular really living up to the hype.

Wales have come through what on paper looked like one of the hardest groups with their reputation intact and their squad virtually injury free. Warren Gatland will be able to call upon all 30 players after Back row forward Dan Lydiate (ankle), wing Shane Williams (thigh strain) and utility back James Hook (shoulder) all took part in Wednesday’s training.

The history:

Ireland and Wales have played each other 116 times previously with the Welsh winning 63 games compared to Ireland’s 47 (6 drawn games), so we have a bit of catching up to do.

Thankfully Kidney’s men have the recent edge over Wales, winning seven of their last 10 meetings. The last time these two sides met was in the 6 Nations competition which Warren Gatland’s side won 19-13 in Cardiff.

The two teams have met once before in the World cup back in 1995 in the group stages when Ireland won by a single point, 24-23.

The key players

Obviously names like Ferris, Heaslip, O’Brien, Bowe, Warburton, Halfpenny, Roberts would appear on any key player list however I am going for two different players and again they are big names.

One of them is the current Welsh top try scorer, the other is the Irish top scorer – yes Shane Williams and Brian O’Driscoll with 100 international try’s between them are the men for the big occasion.

Both players have scored once in the tournament to date, Williams scoring in the crucial clash with Samoa, with O’Driscoll opening his World cup account against the Italians and both coaches will be well aware of each player’s capabilities.

Williams has missed the last two games against Namibia and Fiji but having been declared fit, Gatland will be sure to use him at some stage. O’Driscoll enjoys playing the Welsh however and has scored 6 tries against them, something to consider perhaps for those looking for a first or last try scorer.

The Key battles

The fly half and out half positions – The veteran Ronan O’Gara has turned back the clock to regain his place during this world cup. The Munster man has started Ireland’s last two games and has been coolness personified with his kicking, scoring 39 points so far. However as always question marks remains over his defensive capabilities and it remains to be seen whether or not the Welsh, as they done in the past, single out O’Gara for special treatment.

Meanwhile 24 year old Rhys Priestland is a novice on the International stage and only made his debut this year for Wales. The Scarlet fly half is playing in his first World cup and has scored 25 points so far although he did fail to score against the big guns of South African and Samoa as Gatland opted to hand the penalty taking duties to James Hook. With Hook now fit and presumably back in the line up, the pressure to kick will be off the youngster and he can get on with his natural attacking game something which should benefit.

With Kick duties likely to rest on Hook, Priestland is also lucky in that he can call upon the experience of Mike Phillips alongside him. The 29 year old Lion has won 57 caps for Wales and played in 7 world cup games.

Philips has a wealth of top level experience and his physical presence not to mention an ability to score crucial tries means he will be key to the Welsh performance on Saturday.

His Irish counterpart meanwhile Conor Murray is at the opposite end of the age scale and like Priestland is a relative unknown at this level. However he has shown a real maturity so far in the competition and his performances to date mean that Eoin Reddan is forced to contend with bench warming duty.

Murray ball out of the scrum will be crucial to the Irish attacking back line and if the Munster gets it right then it could prove to be Ireland’s day.

Experience v Youth – The Irish team have enjoyed a lot of success recently both with their domestic sides and the national team, Ireland can boast amongst their ranks Celtic league winners, Heineken cup winners not to mention Grand Slam winners so this team knows how to win’s games and with the Welsh side so young, this experience could stand to Ireland especially if as we all think the game is close.

Prediction: Head over Heart, Heart over Head. It’s going to be such a close encounter, it’s nearly too hard to call however I have to go with my Heart on this one and I reckon will, just, seal a fifth straight world cup win and a place in the semi finals.

Latest odds courtesy of Setantabet:

Ireland 5/6
Draw 20/1
Wales 5/4

Ireland first try7/1
Wales first try 7/1

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