CARDIFF (Reuters) – Ireland, inspired by two-try Jacob Stockdale, bounced back to ruin Warren Gatland’s Cardiff farewell with a 22-17 World Cup warm-up win over Wales on Saturday.
Gatland, stepping down after the tournament in Japan following 12 years as Wales coach, opted to field a reserve side against an equally experimental Irish line-up in his last home game in charge.
But he left the Principality Stadium wondering what could have been as Ireland’s fringe players gelled immediately while Wales, despite a superb late fightback, struggled for fluency and accuracy early on.
Stockdale, brilliantly set up by fellow winger Andrew Conway, crossed in the left corner after 18 minutes and then pounced on a Welsh handling error and dashed over again 10 minutes later.
Wales, losing 22-3 with 20 minutes left, scored two late tries but could not complete a fairytale ending for Gatland.
Ireland, who saw off Italy in their opening World Cup warm-up only to be shocked 57-15 by England at Twickenham last week, made 11 changes on Friday, while Wales made 14.
The result also saw Wales lose their short-lived status as the world’s top-ranked side although Gatland had dismissed the importance of that accolade compared to his team’s ambitions in the upcoming World Cup.
(Reporting by Antony Lawrence; editing by Christian Radnedge)