Ireland Wolfhounds 16 Wales Dragonhearts 28
Steve Hogan at Morton Stadium, Santry
Wales Dragonhearts kicked off their autumn international campaign with a hard-fought 28-16 win over Ireland in Santry near Dublin on Saturday afternoon.
This fixture, on the back of Ireland’s impressive victory in Poland last weekend, was a chance for both sets of players to demonstrate how far they have developed during the current season.
In quite an enthralling first half both sides demonstrated attacking flair and defensive grit as well as respect for the ball. It was end-to-end rugby with kicks for territory being used heavily in the early stages as the sides eyed each other up.
Ireland got the first chance to attack the Welsh line but knocked on and lost the opportunity. Wales worked the ball well out of their own yards, concentrating on working the ball near the ruck, to move down the pitch.
The Welshmen’s methodical play eventually made the breakthrough and following a kick they were able to turn the ball back inside from nearly over the touchline before a two versus one situation on 11 minutes allowed Brandon Lamb to run over and ground the ball for the first try that Chris Harris converted.
Ireland responded by putting in a super hit on Ben Jackson from the kick-off. Soon after, Wales lost possession on the halfway line and Ireland moved the ball quickly to the right, where Alex Burton scored wide right. The conversion was unsuccessful.
Wales then kicked out on the full from the restart and were very nearly caught out when, on the second tackle, Matty Kennerson Crossfield chip kicked to Harry Worsley. Worsley was just behind the ball and was unable to gather the kick, with an open line in front of him.
For the rest of the half, the game was an arm wrestle, both packs working the ball down the field and Kennerson for the Irish and Chris Harris for the Welsh superbly kicking to cut down the broken field running of both fullbacks.
Ireland got a huge opportunity on the half-hour mark when Kennerson executed a 40/20, but the ball was lost early in the proceeding set. The Welsh were then given a further boost as the Irish were pinged for lying on and the Welsh cleared their 20 metre area and then some more metres with the ball, getting to the Irish 10 metre line before a handover was forced.
Kennerson’s kicking was causing problems but it was nearly undone when a wide right kick was gathered on an intercept, only an obstruction call saving the Irish from what looked like a certain Welsh try. Ireland nearly scored again late on, but hooker Liam O’Callaghan was held up on the fifth tackle so Wales went into half-time with a slender 6-4 lead.
The second half began with the Welsh forcing a knock-on from the kick-off and starting their set 30 metres out from the Irish line. Wales then looked to have scored but the ball had been knocked forward in the offload and the referee was in the right place to adjudge it. From the return set Ireland made a break up centre field but the game had to be stopped for an injury to a Welsh player. Ireland made the most of the field position and moved the ball left, where Aaron Lynch drifted over. The conversion was unsuccessful and they led 8-6.
After Wales were held up just short of the Irish line, Ireland scored again, making the most of their field position and scoring out wide through Aaron Lynch, to take the lead for the first time.
The Welsh slogged their way forwards and only made 15 metres in their set, but Irish indiscipline saw a late hit on the kicker by Callum Corcoran, which earned him 10 minutes in the sin bin, and the Welsh were rewarded with excellent field position. Dylan Ree-Davis, picked up the ball 20 metres out and with twinkle toes and a hip swerve to be admired he danced his way through the Irish defence and the ever-dependable kicking of Chris Harris ensured the Welsh took the full six points on offer.
Wales had the ascendancy and just four minutes later their extended their lead. An incorrect play-the-ball by the Irish gave the Welsh the ball in a great position. They worked the ball centre of the goal-posts and then a deft chip by Harris was knocked backwards by the Welsh and gleefully gathered by Conor O’Callaghan, who scored. The customary two points were added by Harris and the Welsh now had a ten-point buffer.
The game then settled back down for a while and it, again, became an arm wrestle. The first mistake came after a Welsh set. They kicked long and closed down the Irish fullback but tackled high and a penalty was awarded. James Mulvany showed nimble feet and a nice crash and spin to make good yards and the Irish had numbers out right. They quickly moved the ball and it was a walk-in for right winger Ellis Keppel.
Ireland couldn’t convert but they were now back to one score away from levelling. From the kick-off Wales were penalised for a ball steal and there followed a little bit of controversy. The ball was carted up the Welsh 20 metre line by James Mulvaney and as he regathered his feet he seemed to lose the ball. It wasn’t seen and play was allowed to continue, whereupon the Irish scored out wide through Sean Findlow. The conversion was again so there were only two points between the teams.
From the kick off the ball hit the crossbar and then onto an Irish head, before going dead. The touch judge and referee awarded a goal line drop out and the Welsh took advantage of it, with Alex Burton diving over from short range. The Welsh missed their first conversion but they were back in the lead by six points and they soon extended.
A long kick was heading to touch before an Irish player touched it with their boot, into touch. From the resulting play-the-ball Wales punched right before passing left where Brandon Lamb rounded the Irish defence to score out wide. Aaron Lewis kicked the extras and the referee, Fiona McConn, blew for full time, with Wales winning this absorbing contest.
IRELAND: Louis O’Sullivan (London Skolars), Harry Worsley (Thatto Heath), Ellis Keppell (Pilkington Recs), Barry Walsh (Tribesmen), Kevin Varga (Longhorns), Sean Findlow (Orrell St James), Matt Kennerson (Dublin City Exiles), Paul Bolger (UGRL Old Boys, Capt), Liam O’Callaghan (London Skolars), Toby Ennis (Norths Devils), Aaron Lynch (Haresfinch), Conor Creaby (Longhorns), Daniel Lynch (Haresfinch). Subs: Callum Corocoran (Rochdale Mayfield), James Mulvaney (Hunslet ARLFC), Cole Appleby (Leigh East), Alex Duff (Dublin City Exiles), Ryan Hogg (Dublin City Exiles)
Tries: Keppell (17), Lynch (44), Worsley (65), Findlow (69)
WALES: Kieran Thomas (Conwy Celts/North Wales), Kurtis Haile (Torfaen Tigers/East Wales), Brandon Lamb (Bristol All Golds/North Wales), Nathan Tucker (Torfaen Tigers/East Wales), Alfie Matthias (Flintshire Falcons/North Wales), Jake Spedding (Ulverston/North Wales), Chris Harris (Rhondda Outlaws/West Wales), Tyler Hopkins (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Alex Burton (Cynon Valley Cavaliers/West Wales), Ben Jackson (Bridgend Blue Bulls/West Wales), Craig Lewis (South Wales Jets/East Wales), Conor O’Callaghan (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Lloyd Allen (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales, Capt). Subs: Lewis Francis (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Aaron Lewis (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Dai Felton (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Dylan Mclachlan (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Dylan Rees-Davies (Bridgend Blue Bulls/West Wales), Scott Whitlock (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales), Iestyn Williams-Jones (Aberavon Fighting Irish/West Wales).
Tries: Lamb (11, 78), Rees-Davies (52), O’Callaghan (56), Burton (75)
Goals: Harris 3/3, Matthias 0/1 Lewis 1/1
Referee: Fiona McConn. Half-time 6-8