Ed Elliot, PA, Dublin
Captain Johnny Sexton insists Ireland still have significant room for improvement, despite blowing away defending champions Wales in their Guinness Six Nations opener.
The in-form Irish impressively stretched their winning run to nine games following Bundee Aki’s early try, a second-half brace from Andrew Conway and Garry Ringrose’s solo score in a comprehensive 29-7 bonus-point victory.
Andy Farrell’s men dominated from the outset in Dublin and would have been the first team to keep the depleted Welsh scoreless in a Six Nations match but for a late lapse which led to a consolation try from Taine Basham.
FULL TIME at the AVIVA!
A bonus point win and we are up and running 💪#TeamOfUs | #IREvWAL pic.twitter.com/oGIRdXNNto
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 5, 2022
The resounding result was in stark contrast to 12 months ago when Ireland suffered a damaging first-round defeat in Cardiff.
Fly-half Sexton, who added nine points with his boot, was delighted to avenge that loss by laying solid foundations ahead of travelling to pre-tournament favourites France next weekend.
“I can’t tell you how demoralising it is when you go back to last year, first game sitting in the dressing room with nothing to show for all of your efforts: Triple Crown gone, Grand Slam gone and up against it to win a championship,” he said.
“That’s what we’re pleased with most.
“We feel there was plenty of stuff to brush up on for next week because France away is arguably one of the biggest tests in world rugby, so we need to be at our very best and we need to learn some lessons from today, even in victory.
“I think we did that well over November and hopefully we continue in that vein.”
Having gone through a transitional phase, 2018 Grand Slam champions Ireland are beginning to look the real deal again after an outstanding autumn, which included glory against New Zealand.
Wales arrived at a sold-out Aviva Stadium without a host of key men due to injury, including captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Wayne Pivac’s visitors – who upset the odds to lift a 28th championship in 2021 – never got going and were outclassed from start to finish on a torrid afternoon played in blustery conditions.
Ireland head coach Farrell was pleased with his side’s professionalism and echoed Sexton’s comments about scope for further development.
“To get a bonus-point win against a side like Wales is no mean feat,” said Farrell.
“Really pleased with certain aspects of our game and, like all first games are going to be, there’s plenty to work on as well.
“The conditions were terrible out there. It was really, really difficult to kick in, to play in, it was slippery, it was blustery, it was tough.
“So, bringing all that together, Wales come here to win and to do a job on us and to be able to get a bonus-point win, we’re delighted with that.
“I thought our discipline and decision-making was great.”
After Ireland’s superiority only yielded a 10-0 lead at the break, they swiftly took the game away from their opponents early in the second half.
Sexton received on-field treatment during that period after being clattered by makeshift Wales centre Josh Adams, who was shown a yellow card.
“I’m OK,” replied Sexton, when asked about the incident. “It was dealt with on the pitch.
“I can’t really answer (if it was reckless) because I was on the receiving end. You’ll have to ask him about what his intentions were.
“It’s one of those things, a bouncing ball, and we made them pay with a couple of tries.”