DUBLIN (Reuters) - A lone try from winger Shane Williams handed Wales a 16-12 win over Ireland and the triple crown after a tight Six Nations clash at Croke Park on Saturday.
Unbeaten Wales, with four wins from four in the tournament, can clinch their second grand slam in four years if they beat France in Cardiff next Saturday.
“It was a very good performance by the Irish but we stuck at it... it was probably our hardest game so far,” try scorer Williams told BBC TV.
“The last five minutes were the longest five minutes of my life but the forwards kept at it and we deserved it in the end.”
Ireland opened the scoring with a penalty in front of the posts from flyhalf Ronan O’Gara who extended the home side’s lead to six points mid-way through the first half with a second penalty against a stiff Dublin breeze and from a trickier angle.
The Irish put Wales under serious pressure after that with Shane Horgan grounding the ball just inches from the Welsh line but the visitors were quick to fight their way back into Irish territory, with flyhalf Stephen Jones slotting a penalty 25 minutes in.
Wales had the best of the first half’s final 10 minutes but Ireland’s defence held firm -- helped as the referee reversed a penalty against Ireland by awarding a yellow card against Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips.
That gave Ireland the breathing space they needed to go into the break clinging onto their slim 6-3 lead.
Wales opened the scoring in the second half with a penalty from Jones that pulled the two sides even.
Moments later the visitors took the lead for the first time as Williams handed off Andrew Trimble to score the match’s only try 11 minutes into the second half. A touchline conversion from Jones cemented a 13-6 lead.
Ireland were quick to take the game back into Welsh territory, however, and O’Gara slotted his third kick after Wales flanker Martyn Williams was sin-binned for tripping Eoin Reddan.
A fourth O’Gara penalty closed the gap to just a point but Ireland’s chances seemed to slip away as captain Brian O’Driscoll was helped off limping badly with just 10 minutes to go.
Five minutes later Wales cemented their win with a penalty from replacement James Hook.
Reporting by Paul Hoskins, editing by Justin Palmer
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