Ireland defeat Wales 37-27 in a thrilling Six Nations encounter at the Aviva Stadium and remain on track for a Grand Slam.
Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale scored twice while Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy were the other Irish scorers. Steff Evans scored late on to ensure a nail-biting finish while Gareth Davies crossed in the first half for Wales.
Despite an early penalty to Wales, Ireland responded with a try from Jacob Stockdale. Johnny Sexton delivered a flat pass which beat the Welsh defender who bit in allowing Stockdale crossed in the corner. Gareth Davies regained the lead for the away side after capitalizing on a Bundee Aki knock on.
With the first half drawing to a close, Ireland showed more creativity than in the match against France or the previous meeting between the sides. Dummy runners fixing their opposite number allowing Ireland to make metres. However knock-ons halted most attacks in what was an error strewn half.
Bundee Aki crossed in the last play of the half and the following conversion gave Ireland the lead once again. Ireland showed promise in that half and looked dangerous on the break. While Ireland did not convert every entry they asserted an abundance of pressure which forced Wales.
Ireland extended their lead five minutes into the second half. Rob Kearney made the crucial line break on the 10m line which gave Ireland the all important momentum. Wales’ forwards couldn’t halt the constant physicality of the Irish forwards and eventually Dan Leavy barged over underneath the sticks.
Cian Healy scored Ireland’s bonus point try on 55 minutes. What was crucial in this score was the Garryowen which targeted Steff Evans. While Keith Earls was unable to win the ball, he put the Scarlets’ winger under pressure and forced the vital error. The Welsh defence caved under the intense pressure allowing the Leinster prop to score.
Ireland’s defence in the second half was excellent for the most part. Chris Farrell put in a number of terrific reads midway through the second half which stopped Wales from getting the ball to their wide men.
Wales needed the next try, and they got it. Dan Biggar out jumped Kearney to put a resolute Irish defence on the back foot. On two occasions, Ireland’s defence was caught narrow allowing Steff Evans space to run and again, on the right where Aaron Shingler crossed to bring the away side to within seven points.
Despite Ireland’s dominance in the possession and territory statistics, Wales were still looking dangerous with just over five minutes left in the match. However a terrific Irish scrum won them a penalty which Conor Murray converted to put ten points between the sides.
There was another twist in the tale. For the first time today, Ireland allowed Hadleigh Parkes to free his arms and offload which created the overlap. Josh Navidi passed to Steff Evans who brought his side to within three points with a successful conversion
With Wales chasing the victory in the last play of the game, Parkes aimed to throw a pass outside the Irish defence. However Jacob Stockdale showed great vision to pick off the pass and race in to win the game and deny Wales the losing bonus point.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Rory Best, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahony, Dan Leavy, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Joey Carbery, Fergus McFadden
Chris Farrell was imperious in defence and was correctly named man of the match in Ireland's 37-27 victory over Wales.
Likewise, Rob Kearney put in a decent defensive display. The back row, in particular Dan Leavy, were a menace for the Welsh at the breakdown.
When on the front foot, Wales struggled to live with the power of the Irish forwards and this was typified with the pressure exerted in the build up to Healy's try.
- Rob Kearney
- Keith Earls
- Chris Farrell
- Bundee Aki
- Jacob Stockdale
- Johnny Sexton
- Conor Murray
- CJ Stander
- Dan Leavy
- Peter O'Mahony
- Devin Toner
- James Ryan
- Andrew Porter
- Rory Best
- Cian Healy
- Sean Cronin
- Jack McGrath
- John Ryan
- Quinn Roux
- Jack Conan
- Kieran Marmion
- Joey Carbery
- Fergus McFadden