Rugby Union: Forward momentum too lax, too little, too late

David Llewellyn says the game was lost in the battle up front
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The Independent Online
SO WHY could the Wales forwards not do it from the start? Why bring on angina attacks throughout the principality when they could do it all along? It was left late. Far too late. But finally the Welsh pack, galvanised perhaps by the embarrassing gulf in the scoreline, turned themselves into a concerted, cohesive force which first of all contained then dampened the Irish fire up front and nearly pulled off the impossible.

The sad reality was that it needed to have been done from the start, but everyone, especially the forwards, had been too edgy. Too over eager for the cool, calculating approach.

The signs had been there from the earliest fraught moments of a high- tension match. And they were about as subtle as the punches that were being thrown by both sets of forwards. There was more to this match than just another Test.

Wales' pack, in particular, looked nervous in those opening minutes. The tighthead prop Dai Young, on whom was heaped so much responsibility for the well-being of the Welsh front row in the build-up to the game, was shown a yellow card following yet another flare-up at a scrum.

Strangely though, for all their deserved reputation for technical excellence, the Irish tight five were giving away on average almost a stone per man. But that ability was more than enough because Wales - in a metaphorical sense at least - were unable to punch their weight.

The Irish seemed able to hold their own in the set pieces and in the loose the Welsh were being run ragged by David Humphreys' persistent thumps upfield and behind them, which quickly seemed to drain them of any resolve to take the game to the Irish.

It took the Welsh pack almost an hour before they began to match their Irish counterparts in the loose. For much of the first half it was more a case of red mist than red shirts at times so far as Wales were concerned. Craig Quinnell deservedly received a yellow card for a gratuitous and foolhardy act when he put his 18 stones behind a shoulder charge to smash the 15st 7lb Ireland centre Jonathan Bell off the edge of a maul.

Moments like that were were careless, crass and did nothing for the Welsh cause. What was needed, and what was not forthcoming, was some ball, so that the potent Wales back line could bring them into the match.

At least the Welsh forwards emerged after the interval looking like they were ready to try something; but their best efforts came to naught. The hooker Barry Williams failed to hold on to a pass that could have opened up possibilities. And that was just one example.

A couple of minutes later his opposite number, Keith Wood, showed him how, bursting through the flimsy cover and sprawling under the posts for yet another try by an Irish forward. And still the Welsh forwards seemed intent on giving away penalties, content to concede position or points.

It took a close-range line-out for a Welsh forward to claw back some respect, Chris Wyatt winning the ball and tapping down to Craig Quinnell for a simple try.

The Swansea flanker Colin Charvis and the Llanelli No 8, Scott Quinnell, gradually built up a head of steam and started to make inroads whenever they had the ball, which they had with increasing frequency as the match wore on and the Irish began to wear themselves down.

Still there were far too many indisciplined moments, more so the closer Wales drew to Ireland. One of them at a line-out set up David Humphreys for that crucial second drop goal.

But at least there was fire coming from the belly of the Welsh Dragon. Sadly it only scorched the Irish and any burns inflicted were merely superficial. For the Welsh the cut of this defeat will go deep.