Tag Archives: Rhys Priestland

Ireland’s Passive Defence Proves Costly

If you missed the game on Sunday, here’s all the tries and kicks from Ireland’s 23-21 loss to Wales, including Leigh Halfpenny’s match-winning penalty in the last minute:


The first try (2.00) is fine example of how passive and reactive the Irish defence was on Sunday. All afternoon, Ireland seemed happy to let Wales run at them. It was rare for the Irish to get up hard off the defensive line and make dominant hits. Wales smartly went back down the blindside where Ireland had basically left themselves with a 5 v 2 to defend. Mike Ross and Tommy Bowe were in an awful defensive situation, but ultimately they made no real decision, just let Wales come at them.

Their first steps were sideways and then backwards, allowing Priestland to use his pace to get outside Ross, and get his hands through the despairing tackle for the offload. Watching the clip, the most surprising thing is that Ross and Bowe aren’t screaming for some their teammates to get across to the blindside. Pause the clip at 2.27 and you see how bad a position Ireland left themselves in. Only then do Gordon D’Arcy and Rory Best try to get to the blindside, too late. That lack of urgency affected Ireland badly on Sunday.

Rory Best’s try (4.09) came after Ireland had put together some quick phases and attacked Wales around the fringes with quickly recycled ball, a rare commodity on Sunday. Good hands then allowed Ireland take advantage of a slip-up by Wales. Pause the video at 4.43 and you will see that Priestland has made a bad decision to bite in on D’Arcy, which allows the Irish centre to put Bowe away on Priestland’s outside shoulder.

Wing Alex Cuthbert is left in no man’s land and decides to grab Bowe, but the Ospreys wing has his hands free to send Best over. A good try from an Irish point of view, but one Wales will be unhappy with. Ireland were clinical that time and it shows that they can be an effective attacking force.

Wales were strong at the breakdown again on Sunday. (c) Joslyn Layne.

The next try was Davies’ second, made by George North (7.18). Wales run a simple spot behind Jamie Roberts to North, in off his wing. The pass goes early enough to allow D’Arcy to step up on North. Pause the clip at 2.23, just after North gets the ball. There’s D’Arcy in front of him, and that is the Ireland centre’s tackle to make. McFadden must concern himself with his opposite number, Davies, who is holding his width.

However, McFadden makes the decision to step in on North. He gets completely bounced off, but he shouldn’t have had to even make that decision. Whether it was lack of communication from D’Arcy, or McFadden’s lack of confidence in D’Arcy, he decided he had to help his midfield partner stop North’s run. As you can see, D’Arcy completely slips off North, not even slowing him down. McFadden still should have done better with his hit. North’s beautiful offload did the rest.

Bowe’s try (9.37) came with Wales down to 14 men and Ireland dominating possession. After battering the Welsh tryline with forward runners, Sexton showed intelligence to move the ball wide. Kearney’s pass was perfect and gave Bowe the space to dive over. From that point, Ireland should have been able to finish Wales off with Bradley Davies still in the bin. But it was Warren Gatland’s side who scored next.

To concede the North try (11.53) with an extra man on the field simply highlighted Ireland’s lack of urgency. It was a shock to see Paul O’Connell miss a tackle on Ian Evans in the build-up. That got Wales in behind the Irish defense and gave their backs lovely front-foot ball to run on to. It’s hard to stop this Welsh back division with that kind of ball, but Ireland managed to get three defenders out to North in the corner.

The manner in which North bounced over exemplified how Wales won the physical battle on Sunday. Watching the tries Ireland conceded, it’s clear that they will need to increase the aggression and urgency of their defence for Saturday’s date in Paris. Julien Malzieu, Louis Picamoles and Aurelien Rougerie will offer plenty more of what Wales served up.


Photos courtesy:  Joslyn Layne, Liam Coughlan.

McFadden Replaces Earls while Wales Name Team

Leinster's Fergus McFadden replaces Keith Earls at 13 for Ireland. (c) Ken Bohane.

In Irish team news, Keith Earls has withdrawn from the Wales match on Sunday. Earls’ first child was born during the week, and has fallen ill so the Munster wing has stayed in Limerick. Fergus McFadden comes in at 13 and Dave Kearney is promoted to the bench. Best wishes go to Earls and his family.

Meanwhile, Warren Gatland has named his team to face Ireland on Sunday. Outhalf Rhys Priestlan and centre Jamie Roberts have recovered from their knee injuries to be chosen in the starting fifteen. Elsewhere, 21-year-old right wing Alex Cuthbert gets his second cap, with George North taking the number 11 jersey that is synonomus with the retired Shane Williams.

Saracens prop Rhys Gills gets his first Six Nations start in place of the injured Gethin Jenkins. With Matthew Rees also on the injury list, Huw Bennett wins his 50th cap at hooker. Ryan Jones comes into the back-row with blindside Dan Lydiate out injured. Mike Phillips returns at scrumhalf. Here’s the Wales team:

Wales team to face Ireland

1. Rhys Gill

2. Huw Bennett

3. Adam Jones

4. Bradley Davies

5. Ian Evans

6. Ryan Jones

7. Sam Warburton (capt.)

8. Toby Faletau

9. Mike Phillips

10. Rhys Priestland

11. George North

12. Jamie Roberts

13. Jonathan Davies

14. George North

15. Leigh Halfpenny


16. Ken Owens, 17. Paul James, 18.  Andy Powell, 19. Jason Tipuric, 20. Lloyd Williams, 21. James Hook, 22. Scott Williams.


Photo courtesy:  Ken Bohane.

Munster’s Experience Sees Off Scarlets

Match Report 

Scarlets 14 – 17 Munster

10th December @ Parc y Scarlets

Zebo recovered from an ankle injury in time to play. He impressed on the ball. Photo via M+MD

Munster know how to win rugby matches. For the third time in three matches in the Heineken Cup, Munster did just enough to come away with a win. They have won those three matches by a combined margin of eight points. That is not to suggest for a second that Munster haven’t earned these three wins. Tony McGahan’s men take their chances when it counts and their superior experience once again told as they limited the Scarlets’ threat at Parc y Scarlets.

The Scarlets signalled that threat within the first 10 minutes of this match. Rhys Priestland was off target with his first penalty effort after only 3 minutes of play. But the Scarlets were still first onto the scoreboard after a poor pass from Will Chambers resulted in a Simon Zebo knock-on. Jonathan Davies hacked the spilled ball ahead and blindside Aaron Shingler gathered to touch down for the Welsh side. Priestland inexcusably hit the post with the conversion.

That meant five kickable points already left behind by the Wales outhalf. He was finally on target minutes later with a penalty just to the left of the posts to put his side into a promising-looking 8-0 lead. Munster came close to a quick response when Ronan O’Gara tried a cheeky cross-field kick to Denis Hurley from a penalty inside the Scarlets’ 22. The Welsh side scrambled and kicked out from their try line. Conor Murray countered and slipped Lifemi Mafi away down the left-hand touchline. BJ Botha and Wian du Preez made yards but then Paul O’Connell went off his feet as he rucked over Ronan and the opportunity was gone.

The Scarlets looked threatening at times as the half wore on. Scrumhalf Gareth Davies sniped cleverly around the fringes to break through the Munster defence at one stage, but Scott Williams knocked-on the recycled ball. Then Wales centre Jonathan Davies looked  to have released Liam Williams outside Simon Zebo but referee Romain Poite called play back for a forward pass.

Munster’s threat came mainly from the intelligent play of O’Gara and the pace of Zebo. O’Gara spotted scrumhalf Davies up in the Scarlets defensive line and put a chip into space for Zebo to gather. Liam Williams did well to stop the Munster winger before O’Gara put a second smart kick over the Scarlets, forcing Priestland to carry over his own try line.

From the subsequent scrum, Botha and the Munster pack put the squeeze on to win a penalty which O’Gara duly knocked over. Munster then came up with a brilliant passage of play to level the score. Hurley and O’Gara decided to counter from a Davies clearance. Hurley made a gorgeous one-handed offload out of the tackle to Johne Murphy, who drew Sean Lamont and sent Niall Ronan racing down the touchline. The ex-Leinster flanker stepped inside the despairing covering tackle of Davies to score in the corner. O’Gara’s conversion was wide to the right.

The game was opening up now and Zebo made a break directly from the restart. Coughlan then rose to claim an O’Gara garryowen inside the Scarlets half. The Scarlets were guilty of obstruction as Munster built a promising attack and O’Gara was on target with the penalty to leave McGahan’s team with an 11-8 lead at half-time.

The Scarlets came out of the blocks strongly in the second-half and appeared to be targeting O’Gara when they had the ball. Three times in quick succession, the Ireland legend was run over by Scarlets ball-carriers. Priestland leveled matters with a penalty from in front of the posts after Varley failed to release the tackled player.

Munster responded well to the Scarlets score again with a penalty of their own. Mafi, replacement Denis Leamy and du Preez all made yards before Scarlets captain Matthew Rees was lucky to escape a yellow for slowing the ball down. O’Gara made no mistake from under the uprights to put Munster back in front.

Priestland left more kickable points behind when he missed with a penalty effort out to the left of the posts. It was a poor kicking display from the World Cup star as he missed a total of eight points that would have made all the difference for the Scarlets.

O’Gara showed Priestland how it’s done with another penalty after the Munster scrum forced Scarlets tighthead Rhys Thomas into popping up. O’Gara’s penalty put Munster into a 17-11 lead with just under a quarter of the match remaining. The Scarlets continued their efforts to create something out wide but it often felt forced with the Munster defence in good shape.

Lifemi Mafi was pinged for side entry into a ruck and the experienced Welsh flyhalf Stephen Jones, on for Daniel Newton, reduced Munster’s lead with a penalty. The Scarlets were now back to 17-14 and with Priestland moved to fullback after the introduction of Jones, he started to threaten Munster with his pace.

Jones came on to kick a penalty for the Scarlets. Photo via Thedogsmother

With a sustained period of pressure inside the Munster 22, the Scarlets searched for a winning score. But the Irish province’s defence was superb and disciplined. Jones was the one to knock-on as Munster hit with ferocity. At the resulting scrum, the Munster pack produced a huge shunt to win a relieving penalty.

Tomas O’Leary came on and made two intelligent kicks to pin the Scarlets deep in their own half with time running out. The Welsh bravely tried to run out of their own 22 but knock-ons from Damien Welch and Priestland scuppered any chance of late glory.

This win leaves Munster on top of Pool 1. Crucially, two of their three wins have come away from home. While Munster may not be playing spectacular rugby, they are doing simple things well to win matches. Here, they retained ball well through tight phases, took their try-scoring chance well and O’Gara kicked four from five efforts. The relentless defensive effort limited the much-hyped Scarlets backline. Munster welcome the Scarlets to Thomond Park next weekend as they look to move closer to securing a quarter-final place. This pool is far from decided but Munster are well-postitioned and improving every week.

Photos courtesy:  M+MD, Thedogsmother