Six Nations

Gatland lauds Welsh character

2015-03-14 20:46
Lions coach Warren Gatland (AFP)

Cardiff - Wales "ran themselves into the ground" to hold off Ireland and stay in Six Nations title contention, coach Warren Gatland said after a 23-16 victory at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The visitors, chasing the game after conceding an early 12 points, threw everything at Wales but their grand slam hopes were extinguished by a dogged red line of defence.

Joe Schmidt's Ireland enjoyed two-thirds of possession, made more than twice the amount of metres than their opponents and comfortably won more rucks and mauls.

But Wales stood up to the second-half onslaught, flinging bodies around with abandon and celebrating every stop, lineout stolen or blow of referee Wayne Barnes's whistle in their favour with fist pumps and pats on exhausted backs.

"We had to dig deep, win a couple of games away from home (against Scotland and France) and get ourselves back in this competition. We've done that. I'm very proud of the effort over the last three games," Gatland told reporters.

The hosts lost prop Samson Lee to a potentially serious Achilles injury and fellow front rower Gethin Jenkins did not emerge for the second half after pulling his hamstring but those setbacks, Gatland said, showed the character of his side.

"(Captain) Sam (Warburton) was outstanding and a lot of our players ran themselves into the ground. The result could have gone either way. Ireland did not lie down and kept coming at us.

"The pleasing thing for me, particularly in the last couple of games, has been our maturity and keeping our composure."

An aerial bombardment contributed much to Ireland's win over England last time out but flyhalf Johnny Sexton kicked noticeably less this time, especially after Wales comfortably dealt with his early up-and-unders.

Gatland said 12 unanswered points by Wales forced Ireland to rethink their kicking strategy.

"It probably put a bit of pressure on them, they had to start playing with ball in hand and play a bit of rugby," he added.

Coach Schmidt was left to rue a hesitant start as Ireland's run of 10 straight wins came to an end.

"We allowed Wales to control the first quarter with territory and possession," the New Zealander said.

"In the second half we put some good phases together, made a few linebreaks and got in behind them pretty well.

"But they scrambled and defended really well ... they have massive charcter. They are very organised."

Read more on:    ireland  |  wales  |  six nations  |  warren gatland  |  rugby
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