Six Nations 2012: Wales win a match for the ages


A controversial late penalty by Leigh Halfpenny with one minute left in the game gave Wales the victory against Ireland in Dublin by 23 to 21 after a great match that will be remembered for years to come. Five wonderful tries were scored. But it would be unfair to say that these were the sole highlights of the see-saw encounter in which the lead changed hands five times. It was a clash of styles, a challenge between two teams who gave all they had to claim victory and offered a fantastic show in an absolute compendium of great rugby full of intensity, strength, guts and high quality.

There were several players who completed a superb performance. Starting with the lock Paul O'Connell, the Irish captain, who fought until the last gasp as usual. He was a constant nuisance for the Welsh in the line-outs, retrieved a couple of balls after restarts and spared no efforts in carrying the ball. Fullback Rob Kearney also deserves to be mentioned. He emerged as a colossus in the high balls with some marvelous takes. Another cracker was the wing Tommy Bowe, who scored a try and set the other one for Rory Best after receiving a beautiful pass from D'Arcy. The hooker should be given the credit he deserves because his team was fantastic in the set-piece. Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien must not be forgotten. Both showed that they are two of the best ball carriers in the world and regained the possession in more than one ruck.

But if several Irish players stood out, the Welsh were even better. The scrum half Mike Phillips, who was elected by the BBC broadcast man of the match, played probably the best eighty minutes of his life. Number 8 Toby Faletau was a battering ram against the green defensive line. The flanker Justin Tipuric, who came in the second half to replace Warburton, stood up admirably to the challenge of stepping into the young star’s shoes. The center Jonathan Davies scored two tries, the first one after a great pass from Priestland, and showed everyone how to take advantage by surprise of the free space. And the other back row Ryan Jones emerged as the leader of the team when the captain had to leave injured.

But above them all the figure of George North emerged. The young Welsh wing, who is not twenty years old yet, delivered a legendary performance in an unforgettable game. He was able to abort a crystal clear opportunity for Ireland when he tackled Paul O’Connell in the first half before he could make the final pass. After 75 minutes, when he grounded the ball near the corner of the Irish tryline with three green jerseys hanging off him, he became the youngest player in the history of rugby to score ten tries in test matches. But his best moment of the game had come some minutes earlier when he received the ball in his hands after a lineout, evaded D'Arcy, run literally over McFadden, who must have felt as if he had been passed over by a herd of buffalos, and, while he was being tackled by the Irish defense, off-loaded from heaven for Davies to score the try.
The match was not without controversy. Welshman lock Bradley Davis should have been sent off for a dangerous spear tackle without the ball on Donnacha Ryan. The offense was very serious and the player ought to have been punished with more than a yellow card. Even Warren Gatland, Wales coach, admitted after the game that he expected a citation for the player. The last twist of the match was that the penalty accorded on Ferris, the one which gave the victory to the dragons, was for a dubious dangerous tackle on Davis himself.

In the other two matches played this weekend, France beat Italy in Paris (30-12) and England earned a hard fought victory over Scotland in Edinburgh (6-13).

Chito Muñiz
BBA Universidad de Cantabria
Carleton University Business Program
Twitter: @chitomuniz

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