Ireland 32 Wales 9
IRELAND secured an emphatic victory over under pressure Wales in their Autumn Nations Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium on Friday evening to consign the Welsh side to their sixth successive defeat.
Cork's Peter O'Mahony was in top form for Ireland, as he collected his 70th cap for his country.
They overcame the pre-match cry-offs of Ulster pair Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson, as well as a first-half injury to captain Johnny Sexton, to completely outmuscle and outplay a Welsh side that were expected to really put it up to Andy Farrell’s side.
Sexton opened the scoring on the 10-minute mark, on the occasion of his 100th Test cap, after a niggly opening to the game, when he despatched a well-struck penalty awarded to Ireland after Leinster tighthead Andrew Porter completely dominated Wales loose-head Rhys Carre, at scrum time in the first two scrums.
Soon after Ireland lock James Ryan was penalised for not releasing, almost in the act of scoring, and Wales went straight down the pitch to register a score of their own, with a penalty from full-back Leigh Halfpenny getting Wales on the scoreboard.
After the electric debutant winger James Lowe had punched a big hole in the Welsh defence, the Irish pack took over, with late second-row call-up Quinn Roux barrelling over for a 23rd minute try from close range after effective drives from Leinster back rows Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris had gotten Ireland close.
Ireland had clearly been the better side in the opening quarter and were well worth their lead, which was added to just four minutes later with another penalty from Sexton, after great breakdown work by centre Chris Farrell.
Ireland were in complete control at this point but an injury picked up by captain Sexton, meant a debut in only the 29th minute for Ulster outhalf Billy Burns, and suddenly there were huge question marks over whether Ireland had the wherewithal at half-back to see the game out.
Halfpenny immediately got Wales back in touch with a penalty in the 31st minute, but Burns settled his early nerves with a simple penalty from right in front of the Welsh posts in the 36th minute, to restore Ireland’s ten-point lead to 16-6 at half time.
Wales looked a different side on the resumption and Halfpenny got them back within a score of Ireland with a 50th-minute penalty.
But, after Cian Healy had been held up after a wonderful block after a pass by Doris had created the opportunity, Burns had another simple penalty opportunity, which he duly dispatched in the 54th minute.
Ireland got a huge let-off on the hour mark when Halfpenny missed what looked like a regulation kick for someone of his ability.
Ireland’s task got even more difficult when replacement had to go off for a HIA in the 64th minute, but the unlikely back-up No. 10 Conor Murray slipped over a 65th-minute penalty to increase Ireland’s advantage.
And the Munster man repeated the trick in the 72nd minute to push Ireland further than two scores ahead and guaranteed the victory.
James Lowe capped the night with a deserved try from close range at the death, to register a score on his debut, which further rubbed salt into Wales’ wounds.
Sexton (2 pens, 1 con), Murray (2 pens, 1 con), Burns (tries), Roux and Lowe (1 try).
Halfpenny (3 pens).
Keenan, Conway, Farrell, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Doris, van der Flier, O’Mahony, Ryan, Roux, Porter, Kelleher, Healy.
Burns for Sexton (29), Byrne for Healy (59), Heffernan, Bealham, Beirne and Murray for Kelleher, Porter, Roux and Burns (64), Connors for Van der Flier (60), Earls for Henshaw (71).
Halfpenny, Williams, Davies, Watkin, Adams, Biggar, Davies; Faletau, Tipuric, Lewis-Hughes, Wyn Jones (c), Rowlands, Francis, Elias, Carre.
Jones for Carre (40), Dee, Lee and Ball for Elias, Francis and Rowlands (52), Williams for Davis (54), North for Davies (60), Sheedy for Biggar (68), Wainwright for Faletau (71), Rowlands for Bsll (79).
Mathieu Raynal (France).