The storm stayed away but Ireland built a big green wall to barricade themselves against Welsh tides in Dublin, beating the Grand Slam champions Wales in the second round of the Six Nations tournament.
Andy Farrell’s side went in front, then defended for their lives and sniped for scores as Wales lost in this Championship for the first time in nine games and the first time under Wayne Pivac, in Pivac’s first away game in charge.
It was their previous trip here in the Six Nations when Wales were last beaten. This was not the 37-27 see-saw match of 2018, but was all grit, determination and resolve by the Irish.
- Ireland full back Jordan Lamour scores his team’s first try against Wales on Saturday afternoon
- Wales hit back soon after with a try from Tomos Williams, going ahead after the conversion
- Ireland went into half-time with the lead after prop Tadhg Furlong scored his team’s second
Irish Team: Lamour, Conway, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale, Sexton, Murray, Healy, Herring, Furlong, Henderson, Ryan, O’Mahony, van der Flier, Stander
Irish Tries: Lamour, Furlong, van der Flier, Conway
Irish Conversions: Sexton (2)
Welsh Team: Halfpenny, North, Tompkins, Parkes, Adams, Biggar, Williams, Jones, Owens, Lewis, Ball, Jones, Wainwright, Tipuric, Faletau
Welsh Tries: Williams, Tipuric
Welsh Conversions: Biggar, Halfpenny
After a year of faltering Irish captain Johnny Sexton felt fantastic after that performance.
Asked if he enjoyed the win, the No 10 said: ‘Yes, it wouldn’t be hard after last year. It was brilliant. It had a bit of everything.’ And Farrell added: ‘It was an improved performance. I thought we were excellent, we were on the front foot in defence and attack.’
It was Jordan Larmour who sprinkled the stardust with a first-half try, then Tadhg Furlong smashed over for a second between Tomos Williams’ dart for Wales.
Josh van der Flier rumbled within a maul for his try and Andrew Conway took the bonus-point score with five minutes left.
And aside from Justin Tipuric’s Last minute consolation score that was that.
Wales were wasteful when they laid siege to the Irish line, and the green machine held strong to remain unbeaten with England up next.
Following the game, Wayne Pivac, after suffering his first defeat as coach said: ‘We came up against a side that were desperate to win the match, as we were.’
‘We were inaccurate in a lot of our play. When we did get into the areas of the field we wanted to, we weren’t accurate and let the Irish off the hook.’
‘When they got down the other end, they made us pay.’ Alun Wyn Jones hoped the forecasters who had said Storm Ciara would deluge the kick-off had a Michael Fish moment – and they had.’
‘Windy, sure, at pitch-level at least, with Wales fighting into it to start with, but there was not a drop of rain that fell on this patch of green in Dublin.’
The early exchanges saw CJ Stander and Tipuric engaged in full-blooded breakdown battle. Ireland kept things close, and found openings in Wales’ narrow defence, and the Welsh tried – and failed – to play wide.
For their first try Ireland slowly went through their short-punching drives in the Welsh 22.
They crept along almost to a standstill until Conor Murray fizzed a ball right to the hot-stepping Larmour led Wales into an Irish jig.
Seeing Nick Tompkins, on his first start, unbalanced the full-back nipped inside the Welsh centre and found a vital pocket of space.
Then there was nothing Tomos Williams, Leigh Halfpenny or anyone else could do to stop the 22-year-old scoring a fine try.
Sexton then shanked the conversion which meant when Wales took their try, and Dan Biggar converted it, the visitors led.
The score was sublime. In his 136th Welsh Test, 14th Six Nations, and at 34 years old Alun Wyn Jones is still standard-bearing. Here he took a pass from Biggar, rode a tackle and popped to his fly-half inside which sent the No 10 in behind.
Biggar then found Williams tracking inside and fed him for the try. The TMO checked whether Jones’ pass was forward – it was not and the old dog’s new trick counted.
Williams went from hero-to-zero though. At the other end minutes later he dropped a hand-me-down from Jones at the lineout right on his line inexplicably it was the most glaring of a number of handling errors from Wales.
With the scrum five out Ireland then went left after a couple of phases to Furlong who biffed over. Sexton hit that conversion.
What made things worse for Wales is that the sensationally in-form Josh Adams had limped off with a hip injury so were shorn of their most potent attacking weapon.
Added to that Tompkins was not having a day like last week. It all seemed so easy when he was rounding Italians on home debut – but in the Irish cauldron he started to struggle with dropped passes and average defensive reads.
Ken Owens’ lineouts were picked off too and with the second bad dart the Irish went rumbling.
A penalty for offside in midfield after the stolen set-piece and Ireland kicked to the corner, almost running the maul over the line. Josh van der Flier looked to have grounded short, but it was given. Sexton converted.
Biggar then went off for Jarrod Evans – who was a late replacement for Owen Williams who injured his hamstring in the warm-up – and suddenly Wales found more zip.
Taulupe Faletau, Dillon Lewis and Jake Ball carried well and when Hadleigh Parkes came whacking through he thought he had scored, but a TMO look showed he had just dropped it over the line.
‘It was a big decision, but the decision was right,’ said Pivac.
‘With 20 minutes to go, it’s game on at that point if it’s scored.’ In their final struggles for a sensational revival Welsh hopes died when George North dropped a simple pass on his wing to sum up a profligate performance.
Conway made him pay, catching and scoring in the opposite corner to make it a fourth consecutive home win for the Irish against Wales in the Six Nations.
Stander was sin-binned late on, and Tipuric scored a consolation try very late on but Irish foundations by that point had been well-laid for a Championship challenge.