Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ireland 31-7 Wales: Hosts remain on for repeat Six Nations Grand Slam after win in Dublin

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Ireland’s quest for historic back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams remains on, as they secured a 31-7 victory over Wales in Round 3 at an expectant Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Hooker Dan Sheehan, wing James Lowe, full-back Ciaran Frawley and lock Tadhg Beirne scored tries in the bonus-point success, with out-half Jack Crowley finishing 100 per cent with the boot, landing a penalty and all four conversions.

Wales, who were 17-0 behind at half-time, rallied to hit back via a penalty try – for which Beirne was sin-binned – but they could not score again, leaving them with three defeats from the opening three rounds.

Ireland 31-7 Wales – Score summary

Ireland – Tries: Sheehan (21), Lowe (32), Frawley (67), Beirne (80+1). Cons: Crowley (22, 33, 68, 80+3). Pens: Crowley (6).

Wales – Tries: Penalty Try (43)

The victory was a record-extending 18th success in a row for Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, and a record-equalling 11th successive Six Nations Test win (level with England 2015-2017).

The hosts got into their attacking patterns early, but tenacious and connected defence by Wales forced a Robbie Henshaw knock-on, before Ireland’s Bundee Aki poached breakdown ball to deny the visitors almost immediately at the other end.

Ireland hit the front in the seventh minute, after a strong Lowe carry saw Wales centre Nick Tompkins grapple the wing around the neck, allowing Crowley to kick the hosts 3-0 up with a penalty from 40 metres out.

Ireland's Jack Crowley kicks a penalty early in the first half
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Jack Crowley registered the first points of the day via a penalty

An Andrew Porter breakdown penalty kept Wales out of the game after Lowe failed to find touch, with a clever lineout move between Sheehan and Jamison Gibson-Park then seeing the hooker storm down the touchline, over the top of wing Josh Adams, but Wales just about hold out under pressure in their 22 again, albeit while giving up gain-line time and again.

Superb Wales maul defence and a textbook Tommy Reffell breakdown penalty – his sixth turnover in three championship games coming after a Gareth Thomas chop tackle on Joe McCarthy – denied Ireland the next two times they kicked to the corner instead of potential shots at the posts, but it proved third time lucky in the 21st minute.

Indeed, after a dominant Ireland scrum forced a penalty against the head – with props Porter and Tadhg Furlong both showing dominance – and Crowley kicked into the corner again, the Welsh defence finally cracked as an eventual 12-man Ireland maul forced Sheehan over, with Crowley, of all players, providing the telling heft in the score as skipper Peter O’Mahony called further backs in.

Ireland's Dan Sheehan (centre) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side's first try
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Ireland’s Dan Sheehan celebrates after scoring their first try via a driving maul

Crowley converted with aplomb for 10-0, and though the Ireland lineout was not enjoying top success – losing their first two of 2024 to overthrows – the scrum remained in command to keep the hosts attacking in the Welsh half.

When Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins was penalised at a ruck in front of the posts by referee Andrea Piardi – the first Italian ever to referee a Six Nations match – O’Mahony made a big call to kick to the corner once more instead of a certain strike off the tee for points.

Again it proved the right call, as Ireland hammered at the Wales line through 12 phases, with a barnstorming McCarthy carry the catalyst for Crowley to go wide, where a magnificent Calvin Nash offload presented Lowe the opportunity to ground in the corner untouched in the 32nd minute.

Ireland's James Lowe scores his side's second try
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James Lowe scored Ireland’s second first-half try, after taking a superb Calvin Nash offload

A stunning Crowley conversion from virtually on the touchline left things 17-0, and though Wales kicked to the corner twice after Ireland shipped penalties – Gibson-Park (counter-ruck off feet), Aki (hands to floor before jackal) – for first attacks in the Ireland 22 as the half drew to a close, the Ireland defence gave no inch.

Within that period of play, back-row pair Caelan Doris and Josh van der Flier drove Welsh backs George North and Adams back in huge tackles, before Jenkins was penalised for sealing off with Sheehan in a position to jackal, to audible cheers from a pumped-up Aki.

Another scrappy Irish lineout execution set Rio Dyer running at pace and past the tackle of Lowe, only for Henshaw to get back and bring him to ground, and Wales flanker Alex Mann to then meekly knock-on seconds before the break.

Though Ireland had soundly bested their Welsh opponents in contact within carries and defensive plays, and put the visitors under so much pressure they conceded as many penalties in the opening 37 minutes as against Scotland and England combined, Wales were onto the scoreboard three minutes into the second half via a penalty try, as Beirne was penalised for changing his bind as a Welsh maul was progressing towards the try-line.

Wales' Adam Beard (left) and Tommy Reffell celebrate a turn-over
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Wales hit back through a penalty try decision early in the second half

Beirne
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Tadhg Beirne was sin-binned for his role in the penalty try decision, but Wales would crucially fail to score while he was off

Much of Wales’ forthcoming period against 14 players was taken up by Ireland dominating the ball in an exhaustive passage of play, however, with sparks by impressive 21-year-old full-back Cameron Winnett coming to nothing and Beirne re-emerging after no further score.

Needless indiscipline at a lineout by McCarthy – who gave up an unnecessary ruck penalty in the lead-up to Wales’ only try too – kept pressure on the home side, only for another Wales lineout maul to be remarkably turned over by Beirne near the Ireland try-line in his first action back on.

Gibson-Park’s clearing kick with little angle to work with failed to gain much ground, but 19 phases of attack by the visitors in the 22 was ultimately ended by a vital Ronan Kelleher breakdown win after a tremendous spell of defence.

Ireland Six Nations
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Ireland’s defence proved superb when under pressure in the second half

Ireland seemed to then display their ruthless cutting edge up the other end, as Aki muscled his way over under the posts, but an eventual TMO review saw the score chalked off for an earlier Henshaw knock-on.

With 13 minutes to play, Ireland did get the third try their pressure warranted as a brilliant Crowley tactical kick put them in the right area again, and more close-range pressure eventually saw Gibson-Park feed a laser of a pass for Frawley to score on the occasion of his first Test start, with the latter picking a clever line of running.

Ireland's Ciaran Frawley scores his side's third try
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Full-back Ciaran Frawley crossed for Ireland’s third try on his first Test start

Crowley converted for 24-7, and after lock James Ryan was sin-binned for repeat Ireland penalties and Wales No 8 Aaron Wainwright was held up over the try-line by Cian Healy and Doris, the 14-player home side created one final chance for the bonus-point clinching fourth try.

Replacement Stuart McCloskey – playing out of position on the wing – hammered Mason Grady to ground and then counter-rucked to force the penalty which handed the hosts territory, with Ireland sealing it through Beirne in a 16th phase of attack after Crowley had collected a lovely Doris offload to make a half-break, and Conor Murray played in his tireless provincial colleague to dive over.

Beirne
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Beirne wrapped up Ireland’s bonus-point with a try in the very final play, past the 80th minute

Farrell: We are delighted with the bonus-point | Gatland: Ireland thoroughly deserved to win

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell told ITV Sport…

“There is a famous saying that each game takes it’s own course and that game had a bit of everything really from the sublime to the ridiculous.

“I thought we were a bit passive in the first half but I thought Wales were tenacious in defence. I thought we should have capitalised more.

“We had a good chat at half-time. The penalty count was evened up for whatever reason, we will have a good look at that.

“Delighted to get that bonus-point.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland told ITV Sport…

“I can’t question how hard and the effort from the players. We played against an excellent side. They probably out muscled us a bit in terms of collisions. That is a lesson for us.

“I feel like the score-line blew out a bit and probably wasn’t reflective of the effort we put in.

“You are playing against one of the best teams in the world and they thoroughly deserved to win with the quality they have got. We are on a journey and have to keep learning.”

Try-scorer Ciaran Frawley after his first Test start said…

“Look, it was a bit of clunky in the first half.

“We were aware of that at half-time. It was probably not the start we wanted, they came out and scored and we got the yellow card but to bounce back through all the adversity thrown at us and get the bonus-point win was pretty special.

“I was delighted to get over. The players here are unbelievable, they know how to win.”

Ireland

What’s next?

Ireland are next in action Saturday, March 9 for the fourth round of the championship, travelling to face England at Twickenham (4.45pm kick-off GMT).

Ireland’s Six Nations 2024 fixtures

Friday, February 2 France 17-38 Ireland 8pm
Sunday, February 11 Ireland 36-0 Italy 3pm
Saturday, February 24 Ireland 31-7 Wales 2.15pm
Saturday, March 9 England vs Ireland 4.45pm
Saturday, March 16 Ireland vs Scotland 4.45pm

Wales next host France at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday, March 10 in Round 4 (3pm kick-off GMT).

Wales’ Six Nations 2024 fixtures

Saturday, February 3 Wales 26-27 Scotland 4.45pm
Saturday, February 10 England 16-14 Wales 4.45pm
Saturday, February 24 Ireland 31-7 Wales 2.15pm
Sunday, March 10 Wales vs France 3pm
Saturday, March 16 Wales vs Italy 2.15pm

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