by DAVID NICHOLSON at the Millennium Stadium
A RESURGENT Wales fired up by the criticism of their dismal defeat against Scotland finally performed to defeat Ireland and end their title aspirations on Friday night.
The capacity crowd sung the home side to victory with an ear-splitting roar within the Millennium Stadium, with a shut roof adding to the atmosphere.
Wales coach Rob Howley has been roundly criticised since last autumn when he stepped in for the absent Warren Gatland, who is on Irish and British Lions duty.
Howley decided to keep faith in old stalwarts like George North and Jamie Roberts and was repaid with three tries by the two Welsh giants.
North was in need of a decent display to have a chance of making the Lions team for New Zealand and he delivered with a brace of tries.
But more than just scoring, the 24-year-old North was rejuvenated in front of the watching Gatland.
He defended well after criticism from defensive coach Shaun Edwards and looked eager to get the ball.
The Welsh team also defended their socks off but they were aided by Ireland’s unerring ability to make a mistake when they were building possession and attacking the home side.
Ireland captain Rory Best ruefully admitted as much after the game.
“When we spoke about consistency four or five years ago, we had good and poor performances. Now we are making errors and not converting chances, it costs you dearly.
“We always try to be better and win the next moment. Our performances hit really good levels, it is just errors that let us down.”
Tadhg Furlong knocked the ball on and Jamie Heaslip did twice when the men in green were pressing.
While they were errors, it was also because of the defensive effort Wales were applying.
But in the end Ireland just did not have the attacking nous to break down a Wales defence, that had previously been breached by Italy, England and Scotland.
Ireland made some complicated attacking moves but did not trouble Wales unduly.
Fly half Jonny Sexton was sent to the sin bin just before half-time by referee Wayne Barnes and saw Wales score 10 points while he was off the pitch.
Relieved coach Rob Howley said: “I’m very proud of the players. I thought it was an outstanding performance. We wanted an 80-minute display.
“The players have been outstanding since the Scotland game.
“They have outscored one of the best sides in world rugby three tries to nil and kept them out defensively.”
Wales travel to France for their last game, while Ireland will seek to restore some pride and spoil England’s grand slam party in Dublin.