“It’s unbelievable, this result is very special for us,” said Brian Juliff, chairman of Wales Rugby League, as his nation became the tenth team to qualify for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup with a fine win in Wrexham.
The opening exchanges were all Wales as they established a 20-0 lead inside 28 minutes, principally on the back of a terrific short kicking game.
“We’ve had seven new caps over the three games and they’ve all acquitted themselves great. We’ve found some stars,” commented Wales coach John Kear. “You try to improve and anyone who saw us minute one against France and minute 80 today would have seen a drastic upward curve, this was a really accomplished performance.”
Ireland will now join Scotland as joint top seeds in next years’ final European World Cup qualifier. “We didn’t complete and when the game started to go away from us we didn’t have any composure,” bemoaned Ireland coach, Stuart Littler.
“I thought we were still in it at half time but we’ll learn from performances like this. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel, we’ll have to do it the hard way.”
He will have to achieve it without skipper Liam Finn and, most likely Scott Grix, who are both set to retire from the international scene they have so graced.
WALES 40 : Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams, Ben Morris, James Olds, Dalton Grant, Elliott Jenkins, Josh Ralph, Ben Evans, Steve Parry, Dan Fleming, Rhodri Lloyd, Chester Butler, Connor Davies . Substitutes: Curtis Davies, Gavin Bennion, Mike Butt, Jake Emmitt. Tries: Butler (4), Lloyd (20), Bennion (28), Evans (43), Williams (62), Ralph (69). Goals: Olds 8/10. Sin-bin: Morris (75, dangerous contact)
IRELAND 8 : Scott Grix, Alan McMahon, James Bentley, Jack Higginson, Ethan Ryan, Liam Finn, Gregg McNally, George King, Dec O’Donnell, Liam Byrne, Will Hope, Tyrone McCarthy, Lewis Bienek. Substitutes: Ronan Michael, Gareth Gill, Michael Ward, Peter Ryan. Tries: Grix (34), King (68. Goals: Finn 0/2
Referee: Gareth Hewer (England). Penalties: 11-10. GLDO: 1-0. Half-time: 20-4.
Man of the match: Josh Ralph