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Page last updated at 21:29 GMT, Saturday, 21 March 2009

Wales must learn from heartache

Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones is Wales' second highest points scorer

Stephen Jones has told his dejected Welsh team-mates to learn from their Six Nations heartache after watching Ireland celebrate Grand Slam glory.

Ronan O'Gara's late drop-goal pinched a 17-15 victory over Wales in an epic match in Cardiff to win the Irish their first clean-sweep for 61 years.

"It is a bitter pill to swallow but we are getting better," said Jones.

"We must learn, stay focused and up our standards to win the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation."

The Welsh watched in awe as the Irish toasted a glorious Grand Slam at The Millennium Stadium on Saturday as Ireland did back in 2005 when Wales beat the Irish 32-20 to clinch their first clean-sweep for 27 years.

Wales celebrated another Grand Slam in 2008 in Warren Gatland's first championship as coach but defeats in France and now against Declan Kidney's rejuvenated Ireland ensured the Welsh finished this year's Six Nations down in fourth place.

But Wales - who led 6-0 at half-time against Ireland - were heading for a Triple Crown consolation with just five minutes remaining thanks to a Stephen Jones drop goal, whose right boot kicked all 15 Welsh points.

However, Jones' fly-half rival O'Gara last-gasp drop-goal swung the pendulum back into Ireland's favour as they moved to the brink of a memorable Irish Grand Slam.

Ryan Jones
Ireland have come away from home and done it and shown fantastic composure and discipline and ground out the victories that win you championships
Wales captain Ryan Jones
But Ireland - so often the Six Nations nearly men in recent years - had to survive a late Jones penalty, which dropped short, to maintain their excellent record in the Welsh capital and secure sporting immortality.

Scarlets fly-half Jones said: "That penalty was going straight but just didn't have the legs.

"The last five minutes went through the full range of emotions, it's tough to come out second best."

Wales' half-time lead was shattered within the opening five minutes of the second-half as Gatland's men conceded 14 points to converted tries from Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe.

"The five minutes after half-time was frustrating as 14 points is a lot," admitted Jones.

"It was difficult to recover from that and we did well to get back into the game.

"Ireland played smart rugby but from our perspective it was disappointing."

"We've played well in patches during the tournament, we've not played well for 80 minutes and that's been frustrating.

"We have to look at that and come back bigger and better."

Wales captain Ryan Jones was gracious in defeat and conceded that victorious Ireland got what they rightly deserved.

"I had everything crossed hoping our late penalty went over," said Jones.

"But it didn't but take nothing away from Ireland, they got what they deserved and played very well today.

"They've come away from home and done it and shown fantastic composure and discipline and ground out the victories that win you championships.

"We are bitterly disappointed and hurting from defeat is a tough place to be.

"But we must get over it and go again as we showed in patches this tournament that we are good enough."

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see also
Wales 15-17 Ireland
21 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales 32-20 Ireland
19 Mar 05 |  Six Nations 2005

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