Rugby Union: Gatland gaffe leaves Irish grounded

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South Western Districts 27 Ireland 20

IRELAND yesterday became the first touring team to lose to the South African side South Western Districts, following an unfortunate decison by their coach Warren Gatland. The New Zealander took off the tight-head prop Peter Clohessy and the flanker Trevor Brennan with 10 minutes to go when Ireland were leading 20-14, after which they failed to score any more points, going down 27-20.

Gatland was honest enough to admit his mistake, saying: "It could have been something completely different if they'd stayed on the field and I have only myself to blame for that. But as it is a learning experience for the team, I will not make the same mistake again."

Ireland outplayed the Eagles at the start. But they had to be satisfied with only a try from the No 8 Anthony Foley and trailed at the break 14- 11 after their only other scores were two David Humphreys penalties.

Ireland frequently took the wrong options, keeping the ball close to the forwards, instead of running it wide. Nevertheless, they hit back to lead 20-14, thanks to three further Humphreys penalties as the Eagles forwards struggled to contain the Irish pack.

However, after Gatland replaced Clohessy and Brennan with John Hayes and David Corkery, everything started going wrong. The Ireland forwards were on the back foot and the Eagles took control, scoring 13 points without reply in the final 10 minutes.

South Western Districts: Tries Roberts, C Stoltz; Conversion Benade; Penalties Benade 4. Drop goal Benade. Ireland: Try Foley; Penalties Humphreys 5.

South Western Districts: Van Rensburg; Vorster, Corff, C Stoltz, du Toit; Benade (capt), Roberts; Wagner, Webb, Espag, T Stoltz, Kapp, van Zyl, Frans, Hattingh.

Ireland: Clarke; R Wallace, Keane, Henderson, Maggs; Humphreys, O'Meara; Fitzpatrick, Jackman, Clohessy, O'Kelly, Fulcher, Brennan, D Wallace, Foley (capt).

Cardiff have begun the search for a new head coach after Alex Evans, their Australian director of rugby, informed them that he would not be returning to Wales next season.