Ireland rise to the occasion against Wales at the Aviva 

Dream start to the Six Nations for Andy Farrell's side against an underwhelming Welsh side
Ireland rise to the occasion against Wales at the Aviva 

Ireland's Peter O’Mahony and Will Rowlands of Wales rise high in a line-out. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Ireland 29 Wales 7 

TWO second-half tries from Munster’s Andrew Conway ensured that Ireland hit the ground running with a bloodless bonus point victory over a poor Welsh side in the opening Six Nations fixture at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Connacht’s Mack Hansen certainly enjoyed the opening two minutes of his international career, as he had made a break down the left wing in the opening minute to give Ireland an early attacking platform. 

Just a minute later Hansen, whose mother's family emigrated from Castlemartyr to Australia when she was young, who threw a perfectly looped pass out wide to the left to put his provincial teammate Bundee Aki away for an early Ireland try.

Ireland were clearly the dominant force in the early exchanges, but Jonathan Sexton missed a kickable looking penalty in the 10th minute after Andrew Porter had won the opportunity with a perfect jackal, and the Irish captain let Wales off the hook in the 14th minute when a similar effort drifted wide as well.

Irish pressure kept coming, however, and it was third time lucky for Sexton, as he landed a long due penalty in the 20th minute from under the posts to give Ireland a 10-0 lead.

After a dominant first quarter by Ireland, the second quarter became a scrappy affair, with basic errors, in the tough conditions, killing a number of attacking opportunities, and with scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, in particular, being guilty of some extremely sloppy play, as Wales held Ireland out for the remainder of the half without ever really firing a shot themselves. 

Wales coach Wayne Pivac will have been relieved to have only been ten points down at the break.

Ireland came out in the second half full of intent and they scored a brilliant try in the 44th minute. The maul had done the damage on the left and when the backs got their hands on the ball Sexton and Ringrose made more yards down the middle before Ireland quickly recycled it back to Sexton who flung a huge pass out wide to Andrew Conway on the right wing. 

The Munster winger had to check his run and was therefore faced with three Welsh defenders, but he managed to step them brilliantly and somehow made the ball touch the whitewash of the tryline with a sublime diving finish.

Wales centre Josh Adams was then yellow-carded in the 49th minute for a reckless challenge on Sexton and Ireland took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority. They brilliantly went through the phases, with Josh van der Flier making the decisive burst down the middle, and after overworking the Welsh defence Gibson-Park had the simple task of hitting a completely isolated Conway on the right for a great team score.

Ireland had the bonus point in the bag just before the hour mark thanks to another wonderful score. Porter ripped the ball in contact and Ireland immediately ran it wide with Man of the Match Hansen and Aki putting Ringrose into space, and with Conway loitering outside him, Welsh full back Liam Williams was left in an impossible situation, and ultimately he allowed the Leinster centre inside him for the try.

Wales looked like being nilled, in an abject performance from their part, but in the 75th minute, their lively openside Taine Basham latched onto a loose offload from Tadhg Beirne to run in a consolation try under the posts.

Ireland will probably feel they actually left a lot of points out there, with some of their execution letting them down in tricky conditions, but Irish coach Andy Farrell will certainly have felt that this was a good run out for what should be a much tougher assignment in Paris.

Ireland's Garry Ringrose celebrates scoring their fourth try with Andrew Conway with Johnny Sexton. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Ireland's Garry Ringrose celebrates scoring their fourth try with Andrew Conway with Johnny Sexton. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Scorers for Ireland: Sexton (1 pen, 3 cons), Conway (2 tries) Aki and Ringrose (1 try each).

Wales: Sheedy (1 con), Basham (1 try).

IRELAND: Keenan; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Hansen; Sexton (c), Gibson Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong; Beirne, Ryan; Doris, van der Flier, Conan.

Subs: Bealham and O’Mahony for Furlong and Conan (52), Sheehan and Hume for Kelleher and Conway (61), Carbery for Sexton (63), Healy and Baird for Porter and Ryan (65), Murray for Gibson-Park (69).

WALES: L Williams; McNicholl, Adams, Tompkins, Rees-Zammit; Biggar (c), T Williams; Jones, Elias, Francis; Rowlands, Beard; Jenkins, Basham, Wainwright.

Subs: Lake, Thomas and Lewis for Jones, Elias and Francis (52), Moriarty for Jenkins (53), Davies for T. Williams (57), Watkin for McNicholl (61), Sheedy for Biggar (70), Carter for Rowlands (74).

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

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