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Wolfhounds hang on against Saxons in heavy weather

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IRELAND Wolfhounds coach Anthony Foley made it known this one was "all about winning".

For sure, that is the way it looked as Ireland tailored their game plan to the prevailing weather conditions and England insisted in floating the ball on the wind to eke out a 14-8 victory at a heavy and horrible Kingsholm on Saturday evening.

"We had to hang in there towards the end, but it's a credit to the players that they did," said Foley.

"They just stuck at it in fairness to them, right until the end. They knew the week's work was on the line, and they didn't let it go to waste".

The Wolfhounds took first use of the elements and were ruthless with very limited possession in the red zone, converting two tries, the first from Isaac Boss, darting between Freddie Burns and Luke Wallace, the second from Ian Madigan.

When a penalty was whistled by referee Ian Davies, Madigan took a quick tap on the move to slip by Burns and out of the clutches of three defenders, his conversion taking the Wolfhounds two scores clear at 14-5 in the 29th minute.

This turned out to be crucial. The Irish had to spend most of the second half on their heels, putting their shoulders into the English as their defence withstood heavy pressure.

It all concluded rather dramatically, with Saxons full-back Elliott Daly humbled inches from glory and Burns letting the ball slither from his grasp as he dived over on the blindside with the game clock turned to red.

The simple fact that the home side were not able to change what wasn't working was indicative of their mindset to stick glue-like to a rigid pre-match strategy of going from side-to-side in an attempt to release their speed men Anthony Watson and Charlie Sharples on the flanks.

The problem for out-half Burns was that his goal-kicking was off and the Irish midfield of Darren Cave and Robbie Henshaw, together with fast-joining full-back Felix Jones, grew into the game, after a few early misreads by Henshaw, to close this avenue down.

The back-row got through a mountain of work. Captain Rhys Ruddock was a constant source of frustration to the Saxons' continuity game at the breakdown and a front-foot ball carrier too.

Openside Tommy O'Donnell showed once again how he is turning into an all round loose-forward, all the while bringing the fundamentals of the position up to the exalted standards he has set as a carrier and link man.

Munster recruit Robin Copeland still has some way to go to get close to challenging Jamie Heaslip. The Wexford man was a danger when he took the ball forward in-hand.

However, the fact that he came late to Camp Ireland showed in how he drifted out of the structural framework, finding himself isolated defensively.

Copeland spoke last week about how he had more homework to learn than those who have been with Joe Schmidt since November and at Christmas time. The micro-management of his game needs due attention. This will come in time.

The Saxons coach Jon Callard had to make do with a watered-down squad compared to Foley's access to players all working as part of Schmidt's Six Nations squad.

This could be seen from the Wolfhounds' supreme organisation in defence which, ultimately, made all the difference in the end.


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