Wales outclass Ireland
Tries from Williams, Phillips and Davies seal semi-final spot
Last Updated: 08/10/11 9:42am
Shane Williams: Got Wales off to a stunning start
Wales threw down a marker to their rivals after they booked their place in the semi-finals of the World Cup with a 22-10 victory over Ireland.
A breathless encounter in Wellington - arguably the game of the tournament - saw Wales never look back after Shane Williams got them off to the perfect start.
Williams crossed after just two minutes, with Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies scoring after the break. Rhys Priestland added two conversions and Leigh Halfpenny was on target with a penalty.
However it was the superb defence - led by the immense Luke Charteris and talismanic Sam Warburton - that was key to the triumph.
Ireland had dominated during the opening 40 minutes but they were left frustrated as a solid red wall, coupled with some poor decision making kept them out.
Keith Earls gave the Irish hope after the break, with Ronan O'Gara landing a conversion and a penalty - but the decision to spurn three earlier chances at goal came back to haunt the men in green.
Wales made an electric start and were rewarded with a try in the corner from Williams after just two minutes. Jamie Roberts played two key roles in the move - first with a superb catch off an up and under and then later bumping off Donncha O'Callaghan from Phillips' pop pass - before the ball was spun wide for Williams. Priestland converted.
Ireland had the chance to respond soon after and showed bravery by twice going for the corner as opposed for the points - however the gambles failed to pay off as tremendous Welsh defence kept them at bay.
Ireland again opted to go for the corner on 15 minutes, with Williams somehow preventing Sean O'Brien from grounding the ball - while the Wales defence again held firm from the resulting scrum.
Having wasted three shots at goal, O'Gara finally got Ireland off the mark with a simple kick from in front of the posts on 24 minutes.
A booming Halfpenny penalty from halfway restored Wales' seven-point lead, though.
Having trailed 10-3 at the break, Ireland came out firing after the interval and they struck with a try in the corner from Earls. It was untidy stuff from Ireland but well finished by the winger despite the best efforts of Phillips. O'Gara converted to level matters.
However Wales reacted superbly to the setback, with Roberts leading the way as he continued to smash holes in the Irish defence.
And Wales were back in front on 50 minutes as Phillips spotted a gap on the blindside of a ruck and outpaced the covering defence to score a sensational try.
Priestland was off target with the conversion, while he then saw his penalty attempt eight minutes later rebound off the post.
Wales, though, put the game out of sight as Davies burst between Cian Healy and Earls and then showed great acceleration to score. Priestland tagged on the extras and then hit the post for a second time with a penalty.
Ireland gave everything in the final 10 minutes to get back into the game but they couldn't breach the Wales defence, with Warburton disrupting the attack at every opportunity.