Rugby Union: Ireland sound a warning

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Wales 23 Ireland 29

Tries: C Quinnell, Howarth Tries: Maggs, Wood

Cons: Jenkins 2 Cons: Humphreys 2

Pens: Jenkins 3 Pens: Humphreys 3

Drops: Humphreys 2

Half-time: 6-16 Attendance: 75,000

IRELAND SURVIVED a rousing comeback born of desperation by Wales before winning a memorable match fashioned by what Graham Henry, the Welsh coach, described as the fear of failure. Ireland's first and last visit to Wembley stadium ended in a victory by two goals, three penalties and two drop goals to two goals and three penalties.

Nine minutes into the second-half, when David Humphreys dropped a goal, Ireland led 26-6 and Wales were heading for oblivion. Then, inspired by the rampaging power of the Quinnell brothers, Scott and Craig, Wales, in the space of 17 minutes, pulled it back to 23-26 before Humphreys, such a forlorn figure following the one-point defeat by France at Lansdowne Road, dropped a second goal for a personal contribution of 19 points.

He also created Ireland's first try to lay claim to any man-of-the-match award. Wales, for all their Herculean efforts in the second-half, left themselves with a task that would probably have been beyond Hercules.

Humphreys punished their reckless indiscipline and in addition to conceding 13 penalties, Wales committed 18 handling errors. It was an appalling statistic, reflected in the fact that Ireland had 19 put-ins at the scrum compared to Wales's seven. With the pitch looking like a billiard table, conditions were perfect, yet the frequency with which Wales knocked the ball on gave the impression they were playing with a bar of soap on a ice-rink.

The failure is Henry's and the wave of optimism that engulfed the Principality before the start of the Five Nations' Championship has been replaced by the spectre of a whitewash with a journey to Paris to face France and a finale with England at Wembley. Both matches represent Twin Towers.

Ireland went ahead in the fourth minute when Craig Quinnell had a difference of opinion with Peter Clohessy. The referee's opinion was that the Wales lock was to blame and, having awarded Wales a penalty, Scott Young reversed the decision. This was a little bit of history in the making.

It presented Humphreys with an early opportunity to settle his nerves and from about 30 yards and to the left of the posts, (similar to the position from which he missed that crucial last-minute penalty in the 9-10 loss to France) he kicked the goal. Before doing so, he removed his scrum cap; it obviously made all the difference.

Wales's aggression was misplaced. In the 12th minute, David Young was shown a yellow card for punching. Humphreys missed the penalty and two minutes later Jenkins brought Wales level with a beautifully struck kick from about 40 yards.

His satisfaction was short-lived. From just inside his own half, Jenkins' attempted kick to the corner was charged down by Humphreys who gave a lovely little inside pass to Kevin Maggs and, in the absence of any Welsh defence, the centre ran free to the posts. Humphreys' conversion made it 3-10 and things went from bad to worse for Wales when they were penalised for not releasing and Humphreys increased Ireland's lead to 10 points.

There was no end to the Welsh largesse. In the 29th minute, Scott Gibbs hit Keith Wood with a high tackle and this time Ireland worked the touchline. When the Welsh back line fell offside, Humphreys landed the easy kick.

After Jenkins kicked his second penalty, the half ended on a sour note for Wales when Craig Quinnell joined Young in the yellow-card club.

It barely seemed conceivable, but in the opening of the second half it went from bad to worse to near-terminal for Wales. Dafydd James did well to deny Conor O'Shea a try after the full-back kicked ahead. Before Craig Quinnell lost possession, the half-backs swiftly moved the ball to Niall Woods. When the Irish left wing cut inside, he found the remarkable Wood in support. The delirious hooker threw in a side-step before crashing over beneath the posts for his fourth try for his country. That was in the 46th minute and three minutes later Humphreys, who had converted, added the first of his drop-goals: 6-26.

Wales not only needed a score, they needed it quickly, and it came in the 51st minute when Craig Quinnell took a line-out ball from Chris Wyatt on the burst and not even Wood could halt his progress to the line.

Matthew Robinson, impressive in almost everything he did, was prevented from scoring in the right-hand corner by O'Shea, but after 64 minutes and a tidal wave of Welsh attacks, Robinson gave an inside pass to Shane Howarth and the full-back went over for Wales's second try. Another immaculate conversion from Jenkins reduced Ireland's lead to six points and when the stand-off added a penalty in the 68th minute, Wales were just three points behind.

At that stage, the force appeared to be with the Welsh pack but Humphreys, a cool head amid the mayhem, had the last word. His second drop goal in the 74th minute not only interrupted the Welsh onslaught, but it meant Wales needed a converted try to win.

It proved beyond them and their profligacy returned to mock them in the dying minutes when aanother promising surge from Scott Quinnell died inside the Irish 22 with a knock-on.

Ireland's victory was the first in the Five Nations' Championship for their coach Warren Gatland, a delicious moment Henry, his fellow New Zealander, has yet to experience.

Wales: S Howarth (Sale); M Robinson, M Taylor, S Gibbs (all Swansea), D James; N Jenkins (both Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); D Morris (Swansea), B Williams (Richmond), D Young (Cardiff), C Quinnell (Richmond), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), S Quinnell (Llanelli), M Williams (Pontypridd). Replacements: G Jenkins (Swansea) for B Williams, 52; C Anthony (Swansea) for Young, 65.

Ireland: C O'Shea; J Bishop (both London Irish), K Maggs (Bath), J Bell (Dungannon), N Woods (London Irish); D Humphreys (Dungannon), C McGuinness (St Mary's College); P Clohessy (Young Munster), K Wood (Harlequins), P Wallace, P Johns (both Saracens, capt), J Davidson (Castres), D O'Cuinneagain (Sale), E Miller (Terenure College), A Ward (Ballynahinch). Replacements: V Costello (St Mary's College) for Miller, 66; J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon) for Clohessy, 66; M Galwey (Shannon) for Johns, 80.

Referee: S Young (Australia).