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Wales celebrate another Grand Slam with an impressive win over disappointing Ireland

Six Nations

(Pictured, happier days in 2014 for the Irish)
Guinness Six Nations:
Wales 25, Ireland 7
WHAT a difference a few months can make in rugby. This time last year Ireland were being hailed as potential World Cup champions in 2019. Today in Cardiff there were shades of the ‘bad old days’ with the green and white fans’ only cause for celebration a converted try deep into injury time.
It was one of the worst Irish performances for some time. The team never clicked, they were caught napping within a minute and half of the kick-off and, apart from avoiding a complete whitewash, they looked a very ordinary side on this occasion.
There is no point in singling out individual performances, but this was an 80 minutes that must have been an embarrassment for the Irish coaching staff. The issue of the roof being open or closed meant little. Wales were keenly up for this game and they were determined to fight for every ball, every inch of territory and maintain their discipline. These they performed in style and leading 16-0 at half time, Wales had most of the job completed. Ireland needed an early score to try and get a footing but with Jonathan Sexton twice kicking direct in an effort to get good field position, passes going astray near the try line and a Murray right footer also going in without a bounce, it was not to be Ireland’s day.
Joe Schmidt had a real problem on hand at half time with his side trailing 16-0. It was a 40 minutes that saw the Irish fail to score and their lack of creativity must be a cause of concern. Admittedly, the penalty tally for the Welsh was high but in that first half Ireland were guilty of more errors than we have seen from them in this season’s competition.
Wales scored from the kick-off, forcing a lineout deep in Irish territory and Hadleigh Parkes reading a kick through brilliantly to crash over, the try converted by Gareth Anscombe. Ireland had some good possession after that but the Welsh defence was well prepared for the green onslaught. On 16 minutes the Welsh out-half landed a penalty to increase the lead to 10-0 and the nearest the Irish got to a score was a five metre scrum but the home defence repelled the attack. Ireland’s error count mounted with CJ Stander knocking on his own quick tap penalty in a good attacking position and Rory Best throwing a nothing ball to the front of the lineout that gave possession back to the Welsh. The slippery conditions made one wonder why Ireland insisted on an open roof as twice in succession they were guilty of knock-ons.
When Ireland failed to get points from a promising attack and Wales went further in front with a penalty on 50 minutes that put them 19-0 to the good, the writing was on the wall for the visitors. Gareth Anscombe continued to keep the scoreboard moving with another three pointer that pushed the lead to 22-0 and on 68 minutes the agony continued for the the hard-pressed Irish, Anscombe’s 20 point tally reached with his sixth successful kick at the posts.
The defeat will ask questions about the ability of this current squad to seriously contest their next big challenge in Japan. On this performance, few Irish fans will be holding their breath and musing over the fact that so many world class players were so anonymous on this big occasion.
Wales: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, H Parkes, J Adams; Gareth Anscombe, G Davies; R Evans, Ken Owens, T Francis, A Beard, Alan Wynne Jones (capt), J Navidi, R Moriarty, J Tipuric. Replacements: E Dee, N Smith, D Lewis, J Ball, A Wainwright, A Davies, D Biggar, O Watkin.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.

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