Wales and France will go into a winner takes all clash in Albi next Saturday for the Alitalia European Cup and a place in the 2011 Four Nations tournament to take on England, Australia and New Zealand.
Both sides go into next week’s game with two wins under their belts turning the concluding group match into an unofficial European Cup “Final”.
An it was a score that was needed as Ireland fought back with a final try leading to a tense final 120 seconds.
But Ireland levelled on 17 minutes when Tim Bergin finished off a fine passing move by grounding in the corner. McNally’s outstanding goal gave them the lead.
And they scored again straight from kick-off. Finnigan started the move with a fine run, Matthew Fox was in support and McNally scored under the sticks before converting.
Ben Flower was centimetres short of getting Wales’ third but the home side did level when Ian Webster was put through brilliantly by Ross Divorty to go under the sticks. Lloyd White’s kick gave Wales a slender lead at half-time.
But Wales came back on 58 minutes when Rhys Williams scored in the corner after a period of strong Welsh pressure. White, who had now started to control the game with a number of outstanding moves, converted again.
But the pendulum swung Wales’ way again on 68 minutes when Roets was set up by White to score with the assister converting again.
White missed the kick to leave Wales just six points. Briers looked to have made things safe with a drop goal but Ireland weren’t finished yet as McNally scored and converted his own try on 77 minutes.
And they almost went over for a further try to seal things but the hard-working Jordan James was held up over the line.
Wales coach Iestyn Harris said: “We’ve used our get out of jail free card if I’m honest. We were a little bit scratchy at times. Ireland are a good side and didn’t do themselves justice in France last week. They came with a will to win and we did it tough at times. But if we keep improving and working on things that didn’t go too well, eventually we’ll get there and hopefully that’ll be next week.
“The whole competition is a build-up to the last game and you just hope that you’re two from two going into it. We’ve managed to do that and the players found a way to win today. A couple of things went against us but we found a way. If it’s tough again next week then hopefully the experience we had today will take us into it.”
Ireland coach Andy Kelly said: “I’m massively disappointed. I thought we worked really hard, like we did in the French game when we got a thumping. But this week we gave ourselves a shot at the game and when we pushed it out to 12-4, we started to look a little bit more comfortable. Then the half changed and we were behind at the interval. There wasn’t a lot between us.”
Line-up: Gay, Lennon, Thomas, Roets, Williams, Briers, Jones, J James, White, Emmitt, Beasley, A James, Webster. Subs: Flower, Divorty, Ross, Budworth.
Tries: Lennon (4, 31), Webster (39), Williams (58, 72), Roets (68)
Goals: Briers 0/2, White 3/4
Drop goal: Briers
Line-up: McNally, Bergin, Haley, O’Callaghan, Gillam, Grix, Finn, Boyle, Beswick, McDermott, Finnigan, Ambler, Fox. Subs: Hesketh, Kerr, Ashe, Taylor.
Tries: Bergin (17), McNally (20), Boyle (46), Ambler (63), McNally (77)
Goals: McNally 5/5
Penalty Count: 4-3
Referee: Thierry Alibert (France)