08 October, 2011

Wellington Boot: End of the World for Ireland as Wales "out-Munster" us and quite incredibly FRANCE also reach Rugby World Cup semi-finals:

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Wales' defence rock solid throughout the 80 minutes
“When you give your heart and soul but it doesn’t work out, the atmosphere afterwards is quiet. They’re good men who'll bounce back,”  - Declan Kidney

      There could be no complaints from the Boys in Green as Wales deservedly overcame us to reach their first World Cup semi-final in 24 years.  Half the Welsh side today were not born then and the Welsh were vastly inferior to the Irish in terms of experience having an aggregate of 150 caps compared to close to 750 combined international appearances amassed by their opponents.  "In all these big games, it's about experience," - was the Irish mantra beforehand.  However, youth didn't prove a burden as the boys from the Valleys showed no fear and took the game to Ireland from the opening whistle.

GOING HOME: Legend Brian O'Driscol
"To hell with the Six Nations now.  In 10 or 20 years time;  the Welsh will say:  'Remember when it really mattered?  We beat ye and beat ye well,'" - Neil Francis

            The early signs were not good as the massive Donncha O'Callaghan was smashed backwards five metres from his try line in the third minute with the ball going wide to Shane Williams who slid over in the corner with a sensational conversion making it 7-0 to the underdogs inside four minutes.  
            Ireland hit back however and the remainder of the opening 40 minutes was played at a helter skelter pace with both sides having their purple patches.  Minutes after conceding the opening try, Ireland could have had their own but Wales' try line held firm.  Time and again, Ronan O'Gara kicked for touched when deep in Welsh territory, when he had the option of going for goal.  O'Gara's confidence didn't pay off however as time and time again the Welsh defence held firm with the multiple passing up of three points being something which would be regretted.  The half-time score of Wales 10-3 Ireland appeared to be a sizeable gap.
            However, Ireland were level within five minutes of the re-start with the irrepressible Keith Earls sliding for an almost carbon copy of Wales' try and O'Gara converting the extras.  At 10-10 on 45 minutes; it appeared to be anybody's game, however, from there on, the Welsh turned the screw.  This was when Wales  "out-Munstered"  Ireland as they played % rugby; with the forward pack doing the hard yards before kicking for the corners and going through the phases from there.
Wales celebrate deserved semi-final berth
            Iconic Irish captain (and all-time leading try-scorer);  Brian O'Driscoll spoke of Ireland's crushing disappointment afterwards.  O'Driscoll admittted afterwards that knowing it was his last World Cup made this crushing defeat all the more difficult to take. 
“To a degree, we failed to do ourselves justice, but we were never promised anything,” said the 32-year-old. 
“You have to earn everything you get in Test rugby and today we were off the pace and we go home as a result of that."
MAGNANIMOUS IN DEFEAT: Ireland  boss Declan Kidney
            Ireland coach Declan Kidney was gracious in defeat and insisted his players will come again once they have come to terms with their failure in New Zealand.  “Wales outscored us on tries 3-1. We congratulate them and wish them well in the rest of the competition,” said Kidney.  “When you give your heart and soul to something but it doesn’t work out, the atmosphere in the dressing room is one of quietness. They’re all good men who will bounce back.”
            The truth is that Ireland were well outplayed in the closing 30 minutes by a faster, fitter and fresher Wales.  This is now the end of an era for many Irish players who have provided so much to Irish rugby, Irish sport and the Irish people.  Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan and Ronan O'Gara, to name but a few, will never play at another Rugby World Cup, but we thank them for the enjoyment they have given us over the last decade and more.  At a time of many national crises, these boys have provided a welcome distraction. 
Vinent Clerc sees fighting French over the line
            Elsewhere, England quite incredibly lost 19-12 to a France side which was apparenly in disarray.  There were many (accurately) stating that the front line French players should tell the idiotic French Head Coach Marc Lièvremont that they would  "Take it from here,"  -  otherwise their tournament would implode.  There is little doubt that that happened as France did enough to progress to their sixth Rugby World Cup semi-final in seven attempts.
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