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Ralph man of the match for Wales in qualification win

Wales became the 10th team to qualify for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England after they pushed aside Ireland 40-8 in Wrexham on Sunday.

It was a role reversal from a year ago to the day, where Wales were easily second best to their Celtic neighbours in Perth, Australia in both nations’ final game of the 2017 World Cup.

However, this time around, it always looked like that there was only going to be one winner as the Welsh put in a dominant performance.

Wales took the lead on four minutes when Chester Butler leapt on the ball to score after an inch-perfect kick from Easts Tigers half Josh Ralph.

Wests Brisbane Panthers representative James Olds’ missed the conversion but he made up for that moments later when he kicked a penalty goal.

They extended their lead further after a superb length of the field set which culminated in Rhodri Lloyd, leaping on another good kick from Josh Ralph; this time a grubber. Olds converted before adding another penalty to bring the score up to 18-0.

After a poor set of six from the visitors, Wales regained the ball and scored their third try from another length of the field set. Curtis Davies fed Gavin Bennion who squeezed his way too easily through the Irish defence to ground. Olds converted.

If anything was going to get Ireland back into the game, it was Wales’ discipline.

Following a knock-on, the Welsh conceded two successive penalties and Ireland made them pay.

Scott Grix used his skill to burst through the Wales defence for four points back. Liam Finn missed the tricky kick and Wales went into half-time 20-4 up.

The Irish had the first chance of the second half, but they failed to execute. Jack Higginson leapt on his own grubber kick but his dive for the line was more than a metre short.

Wales again made the Irish pay. Curtis Davies was again the provider with Ben Evans doing well to reach out to the line when being held by a group of Irishmen. Olds converted and once again followed that up with a penalty kick to extend Wales’ lead to 28-4.

Wrexham-born former CQ Capras player Rhys Williams was earned his 30th Welsh cap on his home turf, bringing him level with the two other record cap holders Jordan James and Ian Watson, and he celebrated in style by running in Wales’ fifth try of the game on 64 minutes. Olds missed the kick.

George King pulled a try back for Ireland two minutes later, also going unconverted, but it was just consolation.

But Wales weren’t finished yet.

Man of the match Josh Ralph burst through the tiring Irish defence for his side’s sixth try which Olds converted and finished off the scoring with a another penalty goal.

*This report by Ian Golden first appeared on the Wales Rugby League website. Photo by Ian Lovell