Tue, Feb 06, 2007 - Page 19 News List

O'Gara try secures Irish win in Wales

MORE NEEDED Although victorious, Ireland's performance was unconvincing and coach Eddie O'Sullivan said they would have to play better against France on Sunday

AP , CARDIFF

Wales' Dwayne Peel, left, tackles Ireland's Geordan Murphy during their Six Nations rugby union international match in Cardiff, Wales, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Ireland overcame the first hurdle in their quest for a first Six Nations crown in 22 years when they prevailed against a frustrated Wales 19-9 at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

Irish hooker Rory Best crossed for a try just 47 seconds in, then Wales had the upper hand for long periods but couldn't fracture a composed and more experienced Irish defense.

Victory wasn't secured by the visitors until the 71st minute through Ronan O'Gara's converted try.

That was also the cue for captain Brian O'Driscoll to hobble off with a hamstring injury, and leave the stadium immediately for treatment.

O'Driscoll's midfield partner Gordon D'Arcy finished with a groin problem.

"Brian did his hamstring early and was working on about 80 percent throughout the match, and Gordon was taking a lot of the workload off him, even though he was carrying a knock himself," Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said.

"I was delighted Gordon got man of the match because he had an outstanding game. He should be available for next week. He's had groin problems in the past but we'll manage the situation over the next week," he said.

"They've both gone back to the hotel for physio. Every minute counts in a seven-day turnaround," O' Sullivan said.

Ireland entered their tournament-opener as the title favorite but didn't give a convincing display in a match strewn with errors.

The difference was behind the scrum, where Ireland's backs were more savvy compared to a Wales without the injured Shane Williams, Tom Shanklin and Mark Jones, suspended Gareth Thomas, and out-of-form Gavin Henson.

"I won't say I'm over the moon, but I'm happy to get a win," O'Sullivan said. "If you'd told me we'd win and score three tries, I'd have taken it. I wouldn't get carried away though. If we play like we played today against France [next Sunday], we'll be in trouble."

O'Driscoll's chargedown of Jones laid on Best's first-minute try. O'Gara missed the conversion and a penalty attempt, while Jones landed three straight kicks to put Wales 9-5 up.

O'Driscoll crossed out wide in the 33rd for Ireland to regain the lead for good.

Midway through the first half, Ireland winger Denis Hickie left with blood streaming down his face and returned with five stitches in his head. Soon after, Wales No. 8 Ryan Jones needed stitches for a cut above his eye.

After a scoreless third quarter, O'Gara finished a slick backline move from a lineout and converted his own try.

"There's no doubt Ireland have another gear," Jones said. "They're a good team and that's why they're the pre-tournament favorites."

"What they showed today without giving a big performance was resolve and endeavor. They are very street-wise, we have to admit that," he said.

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