6N: Clinical Ireland earns bonus-point 24-14 win over Wales
DUBLIN (AP) — Wales lost a Six Nations game for the first time in nearly two years as Ireland took its chances and defended stoutly to beat the defending champion 24-14 in Dublin on Saturday.
First-half tries by fullback Jordan Larmour and prop Tadhg Furlong were added to by flanker Josh van der Flier’s from the back of a rolling maul to hand Ireland a 19-7 lead after 47 minutes at Lansdowne Road, the scene of Wales’ last defeat in the tournament on Feb. 24, 2018.
The Welsh struggled to break Ireland’s territorial stranglehold but applied pressure after halftime, only for the hosts to hold firm — with one telling penalty win against the head at a 62nd-minute scrum on the Irish try-line seeing their front row explode with joy and coach Andy Farrell do the same in his box high up in the stands.
Winger Andrew Conway went over in the right corner in the 75th minute for a fourth try that earned the Irish an attacking bonus point and put them in pole position to capture the Six Nations title for the second time in three years.
It is two wins from two games for Ireland under Farrell, who took over from Joe Schmidt after the Rugby World Cup in Japan. If the 19-12 victory over Scotland last weekend was unimpressive, this win over the Welsh was more like it for the Irish as they prevailed in an arm-wrestle over their Celtic rivals.
“Our physicality was brought to the next level and, in all fairness to Wales, they came and they pushed us hard so it was just great to get the win,” Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale said.
Scrumhalf Tomos Williams’ converted try in the 27th and another in injury time by Justin Tipuric were the only returns for Wales in what will be a reality check for its new coach, Wayne Pivac, after he started his reign with a high-scoring win over the Barbarians in November and a 42-0 romp against Italy in round one of the Six Nations.
Error-prone in the first half and imprecise in the second half, the Welsh lacked the composure they had in the final part of Warren Gatland’s 12-year tenure that ended with a semifinal appearance at the World Cup in Japan.
Losing winger Josh Adams — the scorer of a hat trick of tries against Italy — to injury midway through the first half and then flyhalf Dan Biggar to a head knock just after halftime hardly helped Wales’ cause. Biggar failed a concussion test, not for the first time in his career.
Yet, at 19-7 down, Wales had a chance to force itself back into the game when center Hadleigh Parkes barged his way through and stretched over to ground the ball with his left hand. He knocked on just as the ball was about to hit the try-line, however, and the score was scrubbed out.
Five minutes later came that penalty at the scrum, which Wales had opted for near the posts. It felt like a game-defining passage, and the visitors seemed demoralized after that.
“The difference,” Pivac said, “was when they got down there they were very accurate and scored the tries that we weren’t able to.
“We have got to be very accurate in our passing game, it’s something we will need to go away and work on. There were just too many turnovers when we were in good positions on the field.”
The Irish were clinical, scoring tries off almost every opening they created.
Larmour’s set them on their way, the fullback rampaging down the right channel to go outside Nick Tompkins, brush off Williams, and then dive over despite Welsh players being all over him.
Pivac has been wanting to make Wales more expansive than it was under Gatland and Williams’ try was a joy to behold, featuring a nifty offload by veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones and a neat inside pass by Biggar to the scrumhalf, who scampered over.
Furlong replied with a try five minutes later that owed more to grunt than grace — as well as an inexplicable fumble by Williams from a lineout that gave the Irish the platform of an attacking scrum.
After some Irish charges, Furlong received the ball to the left of the ruck and he powered over.
A sloppy start to the second half by Wales saw Biggar fumble the ball then Tompkins knock on, giving Ireland field position. The driving maul from a lineout was unstoppable, and Van der Flier managed to carry the ball over the line after the maul was grounded. It needed the say-so of the TMO before the try was awarded.
Ireland had the 12-point cushion that proved too much for the Welsh.
“There were some heroic moments last week when we had to dig deep,” Farrell said. “But I thought we got that 100% across the 80 minutes today.”
Next up for Ireland is England at Twickenham in two weeks.