Rugby Union: Jenkins joy as Wales upend Irish optimism

Ireland.......21 Wales............. 30 Tries: Costello, Ward Tries: Bateman, Morgan, N Jenkins Con: Elwood Cons: N Jenkins 3 Pens: Elwood 3 Pens: N Jenkins 3
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The Independent Online
IN THE week that Ireland raucously celebrates a Welshman as the harbinger of faith it was bristling with irony that 15 of St Patrick's descendants should descend on Irish rugby's spiritual home and shatter the belief engendered by an act of revelation in Paris two weeks ago.

The Liffey may have been bright green, but it was the visitors from across the Irish Sea who were painting the town red in Dublin on Saturday night.

Few Welshmen had cause to celebrate than Neil Jenkins. Restored to his favoured position as stand-off after a torrid match at full-back in the 60-26 drubbing by England, the Dragons' dead-eye marksman contributed a resounding 20 points, including a match-winning try, to help Wales to their first victory over Ireland since 1994.

"To come back like that when we were two tries down shows the character in this side," Jenkins said. "We worked hard in the back line and I thought our scrums were immense in the second-half. Now we have got to carry that on against France even though it will be very tough."

Tough, yes, but then the Irish were billed as no-hopers when they travelled to the Stade de France only for men in green to deliver a brutal kick to the backsides of those doom-mongers who seriously underestimated Warren Gatland's spirited side.

Beaten by one point against the Scots before a heart-rending 18-16 defeat by France, Ireland could now finish this Five Nations campaign without a point for the first time since 1992. The wooden spoon would be a cruelly unjust prize.

All of which was not lost on David Corkery. The Bristol flanker is well aware that gusty losers will not be tolerated for much longer by Ireland's passionate rugby following. "It's all a case of could-have but that's not good enough, both for ourselves and the team management and the Irish public. It's demoralising.

"We could have a record of played three, won three, but in a year's time, all people are going to see is Ireland at the bottom of the table. They're not going to remember any performances."

Those expectations raised in Paris were vividly clear in the early confrontations as Ireland blustered into a 12-3 lead. Tries from Andy Ward and Victor Costello set the home crowd's pulses racing. Then came Jenkins' palpitation- inducing garryowen that brought a try for Allan Bateman. Jenkins further prompted mass cardiac failure as his metronomic goalkicking gnawed away at both the Irish lead and their hard-earned self-belief. Three conversions and three penalties softened them up before Jenkins' late try pummelled Ireland into submission.

"He's the master, isn't he?" mused the replacement No 8, Stuart Davies, whose charge off the base of the scrum created Jenkins' late try. "I was behind the posts warming up for a lot of his kicks and the Irish lads didn't move. He just bisected them every time. It does put a lot of pressure on the opposition knowing that penalties are going to prove costly."

If Ireland's match was typified by one player, it would be the hapless Eric Elwood. Having scored Ireland's other points with three penalties and a conversion, Elwood's handling and vision were laboured and error- prone where Jenkins' were fluid and precise. Thus, Ireland's rapid and potentially ruinous wingmen, Richard Wallace and Denis Hickie, were reduced to bit-part players.

"Since England we've had to show great character and now that we have improved on the last two Five Nations performances by winning two games, we can take on France with more confidence," Kevin Bowring, the Wales coach, said.

IRELAND: C Clarke (Terenure College); R Wallace (Saracens), K Maggs (Bristol), R Henderson (Wasps), D Hickie (St Mary's College); E Elwood (Galwegians), C McGuinness (St Mary's College); R Corrigan (Greystones), K Wood (Harlequins, capt), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Saracens), M O'Kelly (London Irish), D Corkery (Bristol), V Costello (St Mary's College), A Ward (Ballinahinch). Replacements: P Clohessy (Young Munster) for Wallace, 54; R Nesdale (Newcastle) for Wood, 54; E Miller (Leicester) for Ward, 62.

WALES: K Morgan (Pontypridd); W Proctor (Llanelli), A Bateman (Richmond), L Davies, G Thomas (both Cardiff); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); A Lewis (Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea), D Young (Cardiff), M Voyle (Llanelli), A Moore, R Appleyard, C Charvis (all Swansea), K Jones (Ebbw Vale). Replacements: J Humphreys (Cardiff) for G Jenkins, 60; S Davies (Swansea) for Jones, 60; L Mustoe (Cardiff) for Young, 71.

Referee: E Morrison (England).