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Irish take the direct road to victory

Ireland 24 Wales 14

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Jordan Larmour of Ireland on his way to scoring Ireland’s first try despite the tackle of Leigh Halfpenny during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jordan Larmour of Ireland on his way to scoring Ireland’s first try despite the tackle of Leigh Halfpenny during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Jordan Larmour of Ireland on his way to scoring Ireland’s first try despite the tackle of Leigh Halfpenny during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

When you win with a bonus point a game lots reckoned you would lose, it qualifies as a good day out. When the win leaves you two from two going to the first breather in the Six Nations then it's elevated to a very good day. And that's what Ireland had at a storm-free Lansdowne Road. In the absence of a gale we had a stiff breeze blowing in over the Havelock Square end, but players of this standard are well able to cope with that. And Ireland were well able to cope with Wales.

So, two new coaches left the scene with long nights ahead of them. For Wayne Pivac, his team were surprisingly poor at key moments, let down by handling errors - eight turnovers for that alone - or dodgy decisions when everyone would have expected more. As for Andy Farrell, the evening that stretched out beyond Romain Poite's final whistle was a chance to unwind and appreciate that while occasionally there are grating noises coming from his team, they are being drowned out by the positive sounds of a group with lots of belief in what they're doing.

They also rode their luck. Ireland went through a rear-guard action that stretched from 47 minutes when Josh van der Flier scored his side's third try, to 56 minutes when Hadleigh Parkes reached over the Irish line but lost control of the ball as he went to ground it. It felt like a long time to be on the wrong end of the game.

In the recent past, Parkes had done Ireland in similar circumstances at the same end of the ground. Had he got the connection right this time, having timed his outside-to-inside run perfectly, the handy conversion would have left his side five points behind with the final quarter to come, all the momentum, and the wind. An interesting prospect for Wales, which captain Alun Wyn Jones thought was about to deliver a bounty of some sort. "I'm not going to blame Romain (Poite) and say we needed a card earlier but we felt we were building pressure on them," he said.

When the card eventually arrived the game had changed for the worse for Wales. And that was in the 80th minute, with man of the match CJ Stander heading for the bin but his side safe at 24-7 thanks to an Andrew Conway try in the corner. Wales scored at the death, not enough to give them a losing bonus point, not enough to make them feel better about one of those games where sometimes it felt like they were on the outside looking in.

Jones had been very good, his advancing years doing nothing to diminish his skills in contact. Otherwise Wales struggled for big performers. Ireland had a bunch playing very well. Robbie Henshaw surely would have got the gong had he survived a HIA; Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale (pictured); Andrew Conway and Johnny Sexton were all on their game, and Bundee Aki was tremendously effective. Up front, Stander lead a pack where lots of lads were showing up for work.

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Ireland's Jacob Stockdale in action. Photo: Donall Farmer/PA Wire

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale in action. Photo: Donall Farmer/PA Wire

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Unlike last week against Scotland, this time the home side got after their opposition from the start. It took a while though to reach a point that appealed to them. Sometimes they needed game-breaking skills, like Larmour's try on 19 minutes.

"When you've got those back-three players who can beat people and can run all day you'd be mad not to get the ball to them," Sexton said. It was hardly part of the plan at any stage to attack five defenders with three attackers, but that's what Ireland did when they cut back to the blind after a few phases of pressure in the Wales 22. When Larmour got the pass there was very little on, but instead of aiming to retain possession and have another go elsewhere he went for broke, and scored. In the process Nick Tompkins made a mess of his tackle attempt and then Tomos Williams fell off Larmour to open the final door. Worth saying that Ireland's full back is not easy to defend against.

Sexton shanked the conversion but at last Ireland were on the scoreboard, and the efficiency of their kick-off reception suggested they would soon be in the market for another one. Turns out they conceded instead - a beautifully taken try by Williams after great hands from Alun Wyn Jones.

In the circumstances then Ireland would have been well pleased to go to the changing rooms 12-7 ahead, courtesy of a bullocking try from Tadhg Furlong that Wales will reflect on as poorly defended.

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Wales' Gareth Davies in action. Photo: Ian Walton/Reuters

Wales' Gareth Davies in action. Photo: Ian Walton/Reuters

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They should have fallen further behind early in the second half only for Peter O'Mahony to spill close to the line, but a few minutes later Van der Flier got the nod from the TMO when he was at the heart of a bunch of heavies driving over the line. With Sexton's conversion Ireland were 19-7 ahead and motoring well, only to immediately get stuck in reverse.

After the Parkes escape though they managed to play chunks of the game in the right areas, despite the wind. Again it featured simple, direct rugby in the opposition 22 - start with a scrum and get around the corner - and then very good hands to get Conway free on the right to score. They were well worth the win.

Scorers - Ireland: J Larmour, T Furlong, J van der Flier, A Conway try each; J Sexton 2 cons; Wales: T Williams, J Tipuric try each; D Biggar, L Halfpenny con each.

Ireland: J Larmour; A Conway, R Henshaw (HIA K Earls 46), B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton (capt)(R Byrne 71), C Murray (J Cooney 73); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 51), R Herring (R Kelleher 67), T Furlong (A Porter 67), I Henderson (D Toner 67), J Ryan, P O'Mahony (M Deegan 71), CJ Stander (yc 80), J van der Flier

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Ireland's Andrew Conway (2nd left) celebrates after scoring his side's fourth try. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ireland's Andrew Conway (2nd left) celebrates after scoring his side's fourth try. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Wales: L Halfpenny; G North, N Tompkins, H Parkes, J Adams (J McNicholl 26); D Biggar (HIA J Evans 45), T Williams (G Davis 49) W Jones (R Carre 64), K Owens (RElias 74), D Lewis (L Brown 67), J Ball (A Beard 71) AW Jones (capt), A Wainwright (R Moriarty 49), T Faletau, J Tipuric

Referee: R Poite (Fra)

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