1st November 2009, 20:35
2009 Wales 42 Ireland 12
Wales qualified to face Scotland at the Brewery Field in next Sunday's
Wales qualified to face Scotland at the Brewery Field in next Sunday's rugbyleague.com European Cup Final after trouncing Ireland 42-12 in a drenched Pontypridd ground.
The pitch was saturated underfoot after inconsistent rain all day and after the heavens opened just before kick-off, much of the Sardis Road turf turned into a mudbath.
A healthy 2,143 crowd, which excellent considering the poor weather coupled with the fact that Cardiff City football and Newport Gwent Dragons rugby union matches were being played at the same time, watched a very competitive game with initially little between the two Celtic nations. Ireland may have started stronger but Wales didn't look outclassed and fought back to control the conditions and the game producing an outstanding second half performance.
It was an excellent all-round team performance from the men in red as eight individual Welshmen, six from the Crusaders, crossed the whitewash for the eight tries. Skipper Jordan James, wearing the armband in place of Ben Flower who failed a late fitness test, led from the front and his inspiration was rewarded with a try.
Wales fought well in the horrendous conditions to set up an early chance. Ashley Bateman nicely offloaded to Matt Thomas who did well to catch his own chip kick, but James Coyle was too quick for him to complete a good tackle. From the next play, Wales forced a goal-line drop-out but lost the ball immediately, giving away a penalty.
Ireland didn't waste their chance and a fine passing move culminated in Karl Fitzpatrick and Tyrone McCarthy linking to set up Marcus St Hilaire to go over. Pat Richards converted.
Ireland increased their lead on 19 minutes. Richards placed an inch perfect grubber kick into the ingoal from 20 metres out and Liam Finn was quickest to the ball, diving to secure the four points. Richards had no problems adding two more and Ireland were 12-0 up.
They were close to getting a third try on 26 minutes but Richards couldn't quite catch Finn's cheeky lob on the fifth tackle.
Five minutes later, Wales finally broke through with a short range try, Ian Webster, who broke two Welsh records in Serbia last week, diving over after being set up by Neil Budworth at dummy half. Lloyd White converted.
And just before half-time, Wales levelled things after Aberdare-born Lee Williams, a man who's been at the Crusader since inception, scored a fine individual effort weaving through the Irish defence. White's kick was accurate to make the score 12-12.
Wales took the lead eight minutes into the second half. Last week's hat-trick hero Christiaan Roets opened up a gap for Rhys Williams to score. White missed the kick and the score remained at 16-12.
Crusaders' Ashley Bateman extended Wales' lead on 53 minutes after a fine passing move set the Trealaw youngster to go over in the corner.
And from kick-off, Wales scored again. Elliot Kear made the metres, breaking through the Irish defence before being tackled. But from the next play, Geraint Davies, who had started the original move at the other end of the field, charged over for a superb first try for his country. White failed to convert both and Wales were left 24-12 up.
However the home side built a three-try cushion when man of the match Jordan James forced his way under the sticks. White kicked the easy goal.
Elliot Kear followed him over in similar fashion from the first set after kick-off and Wales had the game sealed. White converted and the score was 36-12.
The icing on the cake came with eight minutes remaining as Gil Dudson used his strength to power over for Wales' eighth try. White converted again.
Ireland, who been totally outclassed in the second period, struggled to even get a consolation. Luke Ambler mis-handling the ball with a clear run to the line with less than a minute remaining.
A delighted Wales coach Iestyn Harris said: "I thought we were a bit scrappy for the first 30 minutes and we dropped a lot of ball. I said a few things to them at half-time to try and help them and get a better performance from them in the second half and I think that worked. I think the skill levels in the conditions were very high and we played some good rugby and tested the Ireland defence. That's all I asked of them and they played some good rugby as well.
"We wanted to lift the tempo of the game today, our defensive line was aggressive and fast and we played with some skill, all of which were very important. We tested them around the ruck and put width in our passes. Our kicking game was good too. I was very pleased."
Ireland coach Andy Kelly knows that he needs to pick his side up for next week's third-fourth place play off against Lebanon which is a 1.30pm kick-off at the Brewery Field in Bridgend.
"We can't compain or be aggrieved at anything today," he said. "We were outplayed by a much better and enthusiastic side today and paid the penalty. We struggled to get hold of the ball in the second half and when we did, we didn't do much with it. Their forwards dominated our pack and it cost us the game. They also defended well, we were being dominated in the middle of the field.
"Pride is the first port of call for us this week. The players need to look at themselves and recompense themselves for the way they played today. We've got some structural things to work on after today and what we can't afford to do is be dominated in the forward line like we were today. That's the engine room and it didn't fire."
1. Elliot Kear (Celtic Crusaders)
2. Rhys Williams (Warrington Wolves)
3. Matt Thomas (London Skolars)
4. Christiaan Roets (Bridgend Blue Bulls)
5. Ashley Bateman (Celtic Crusaders)
6. Lloyd White (Celtic Crusaders)
7. Ian Watson (Leigh Centurions)
8. Jordan James (Celtic Crusaders)
9. Neil Budworth (Celtic Crusaders)
10. Gil Dudson (Celtic Crusaders)
11. Chris Beasley (Celtic Crusaders)
12. Geraint Davies (Celtic Crusaders)
13. Ian Webster (Central Comets)
14. Lee Williams (Celtic Crusaders)
15. Ross Divorty (Featherstone Rovers)
16. Matt Barron (Gateshead Thunder)
17. Lewis Mills (Celtic Crusaders)
Tries: Webster (31), L.Williams (38), R.Williams (48), Bateman (53), Davies (56), James (61), Kear (64), Dudson (72)
Goals: White 5/8
1. Karl Fitzpatrick (Salford City Reds)
2. Tim Bergin (Laois Panthers)
3. Marcus St Hilaire (Oldham)
4. James Haley (Halifax)
5. Pat Richards (Wigan Warriors)
6. James Coyle (Wigan Warriors)
7. Liam Finn (Dewsbury Rams)
8. Ryan Boyle (Castleford Tigers)
9. Bob Beswick (Halifax)
10. Luke Ambler (Leeds Rhinos)
11. Sean Hesketh (York City Knights)
12. Dave Allen (Barrow Raiders)
13. Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington Wolves)
14. Wayne Kerr (Oldham)
15. Paddy Barcoe (Carlow Crusaders)
16. Mike Haley (Leeds Rhinos)
17. Stevie Gibbons (Carlow Crusaders).
Tries: St Hilaire (8), Finn (19)
Goals: Richards 2/2
Referee: Thierry Alibert (France)
Scoring Sequence: 0-6, 0-12, 6-12, 12-12, 16-12, 20-12, 24-12, 30-12, 36-12, 42-12
Men of the match:
Wales - Jordan James,
Ireland - Pat Richards
Gamestar: Jordan James who led the Wales forward line in their domination of the Irish pack.
Gamebreaker: Ashley Bateman's try on 53 minutes opened the floodgates and Wales didn't look back.
article by Ian Golden
1 November 2009