Ireland overpower Wales

Wales face an uphill battle to qualify for the Rugby League European Nations Cup Final after losing 25-12 to Ireland on Sunday.

The match at Aberavon was the second in the month-long tournament, Russia opening the competitionat Moscow's Olympic Stadium on Saturday, going down 58-10 to a strong French outfit in the other qualifying group.

Echoing the only previous meeting between the two sides, the game was an enjoyable if at times disjointed affair, Ireland recovering from some early Welsh pressure to effectively seal the game before half time with four quick tries in the space of 20 minutes.

Wales had two early chances to be first on the scoresheet. After only five minutes, Hefin O'Hare was held on on the line following a Mark Lennon bomb while an Ian Watson grubber kick a few minutes later came off the post and was picked up Ireland's Paul Southern.

However after Ireland opened the scoring in the 20th minute as Wales had no answer to the skillful play from the men in green and white.

Halifax's Phil Cantillon was first on the board, breaking through the Welsh defence to place under the sticks, his club team-mate Pat Weisner converting.

Weisner could have scored himself ten minutes later but Anthony Stewart's pass was intercepted superbly by Ian Watson.

However, Stewart broke through successfully himself on 31 minutes to extend Ireland's advantage to 10-0 and from their first set of six straight from kick-off, Carl de Chenu extended Ireland's lead to 14.

Ireland had time for one more before the interval, Weisner's bomb being picked up by Stewart Littler who was given too much time to ground the ball.

After the break Littler added his second, grounding in the corner on 55 minutes. But the biggest cheer of the day from the thousand strong crowd was reserved for Jordan James who finally put Wales on the scoresheet, completing a fine passing move to score under the sticks, with Mark Lennon converting.

The try rejuvenated the crowd and lifted the Dragons, and from the next set of six Lennon, who flew in from Sydney this week to play for his country, broke through himself and converted his own try to bring the score back to 12-22.

However as the game clock reached the 70 minute mark, the unusual sight of three field-goals in as many minutes, all from Pat Weisner, gave Ireland the two-try cushion which was enough to stop the Welsh comeback in its tracks.

Ireland now have a week off before hosting Scotland in Dublin on 29 October while Wales travel up to Glasgow to play their final group match next Sunday. Coach Stuart Wilkinson is upbeat about Wales' chances commenting, "We have some good preparation time for next week and we can build on this display. I'm happy with the performance considering we fielded a number of part-time players and were up against my favourites to win the group. Saying that, had we taken those early chances, it may have been a different story."

WALES: Damien Gibson, Hefin O'Hare, Kris Tassell, Adam Hughes, Bryn Powell, Mark Lennon, Ian Watson, Damien Hudd, Dave Clarke, Gareth Dean, Jordan James, Steve Thomas, Barry Pugh. Subs: Kevin Ellis, Aled James, Nathan Strong, Neil Davies.

IRELAND: Anthony Stewart, Carl de Chenu, Stewart Littler, Chris Maye, Ian Dowling, Karl Fitzpatrick, Pat Weisner, Paul Cantillon, David Bates, Matt McConnell, Mick Cassidy, Tommy Gallagher. Subs: Paul Dorley, Declan Foy, Phil Purdie, Simon Manuel.

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