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Ireland go ‘top of the rankings’ with impressive victory over Welsh

By Aidan Corr
in the Aviva Stadium
IRELAND go number one in the world rankings after this victory at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon but can they repeat that form in Japan?. Wales led for a short time in the opening half but once Joe Schmidt’s side gained the initiative early in the second half there was only going to be one winner of this Guinness Series clash.
The win was impressive against a strong Welsh side and on this performance Ireland will be favourites to top their pool at the end of the early stages of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
Ireland should have gone behind after just one minute, ven der Flier whistled for going offside, but Leigh Halfpenny sliced his kick right and wide. George North went close a few minutes later but six minutes had gone before Ireland got their first taste of attacking action. Wales continued to boss the game using their pack to make the carries and attack off the recycled ball. Rory Best’s first lineout throw was robbed by the Welsh but Ireland got a boost when they turned over ruck ball in front of their own posts with 13 minutes played.
Bundee Aki made yards every time he got possession but for the second time in succession Rory Best’s lineout throw went to a red shirt. Jean Kleyn was justifying his selection with some big hits as Ireland pumped another ball into touch, forcing a free kick. Best went for a scrum just inside halfway, Aki made a telling break and this time James Ryan took a clean catch from the lineout. Ireland went through the phases and Rob Kearney found space to go over with Jonathan Sexton ‘s conversion putting the home side 7-0 in front after 22 minutes.
Dan Biggar came on for the injured Rhys Patchell as Wales went in search of a score. They were awarded a penalty on 25 minutes and Leigh Halfpenny got his side on the scoreboard at 7-3. Dan Biggar was only inches short of a try after he intercepted on halfway but from a five metre scrum Hadleigh Parkes bustled his way over to put the visitors 7-8 in front with Haflpenny adding the conversion for a 7-10 lead with 32 minutes played.
Half time: Ireland 7, Wales 10.
Ireland got lucky soon after the restart, awarded a penalty after Sexton poured down another high kick on the Welsh defence. Lineout, free kick and scrum followed and Ireland were held up almost on the line. The patience of the Irish paid off with Tadhg Furlong eventually forcing his way over to put his side 12-10 in front and Sexton’s conversion pushed the lead 14-10 to the good with 52 minutes played.
The boys in green looked to be getting the upper hand going into the final quarter and they took a major step towards victory when James Ryan got a touchdown after some terrific work by the pack. Sexton missed the conversion but at 19-10 with 20 minutes remaining, Ireland looked comfortable.
Showing their defensive qualities, Rhy Ruddock made a crucial turnover 15 metres from his own line as the Welsh went in search of a score. The penalty count mounted in favour of the Irish as Wales tired in the last quarter, the Irish pack pummelled the Welsh in those final minutes and the winning margin could well have been doubled.
Keith Earls went off after taking a knock ten minutes after half time
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Rob Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; James Ryan, John Kleyn; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements, SeanCronin, dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Garry Ringrose.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Rhys Patchell, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Tomas Francis; Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones; Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
Subs: Ken Owens, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Josh Navidi, Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams.

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