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Injuries and defeat cause for Ireland concern

Ireland 10, Wales 16

WALES were in no mood to roll over in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and they fully deserved the win that will be received with some relief in the Valleys. The injuries to Earls and Fitzgerald will be of concern to the Irish camp and they will go into next Saturday’s away game against the English with much to dwell upon. For Paul O’Connell, it was disappointing not to end his long career at this venue with a win, but rugby can be a cruel game as the warm-up fixtures have already shown over recent weeks.

Level 10-10 at the break, Ireland showed more inventiveness after that first period with Henshaw making a series of good breaks, O’Mahony impressive all over the field and Sexton varying his game nicely. replacement prop Seanie Cronin showed the backs how to break the Welsh defence with his first touch of the ball and a Sexton ‘special’ set up Ireland first real try chance of the half on 52 minutes. Sean O’Brien burst for the line after a slick Heaslip pass but there was no grounding. An Ireland scrum five metres out had the crowd in full voice, but the pack was penalised at the put-in.

There was drama on 63 minutes when Keith Earls had to be stretchered off after making a brave tackle, putting his World Cup inclusion hopes in some doubt. Leigh Halfpenny’s penalty on the resumption edged the Welsh 10-13 in front. A superb catch by Welsh replacement Hallam Amos put his side in good field position, the penalty was awarded against Dave Kilcoyne at the ruck and Halfpenny continued his 100% success from the tee to increase the lead to six points with nine minutes remaining. Joe Schmidt’s problems mounted with Luke Fitzgerald also being forced off with a hip injury and as the Irish tired, Wales appeared to be capable of seeing this one out comfortably. Ireland made a late burst, trying to take on the red pack at the maul without much return and they nearly snatched it at the death, the Welsh defence holding up a frenetic attack.

Although Ireland were on the defensive for long periods of the opening half they defended bravely. Wales had come to the Aviva determined to make up for their poor show in Cardiff a few weeks earlier and they were 10-0 up after 24 minutes.

The Welsh got early sight of the try line when Scott Williams made a nice break and it took a counter-ruck by Ian Henderson to relieve the pressure 20 metres ffrom the home line. In the next phase, the Welsh went in front, Leigh Halfpenny landing a penalty after Richardt Strauss had gone offside at a ruck. The visitors kept up the pressure from the restart and after a series of lineouts close to the Irish line, loose head prop Geithin Jenkins powered over after the red pack again drove the home eight over the line. Halpenny’s conversion added the extra points. Ireland had shown little attacking flair during that opening quarter but they got a score on the board on 29 minutes, Jonathan Sexton kicking a penalty to reduce the deficit to 3-10. Peter O’Mahony was having a stormer at the breakdown and with the clock reading 40 minutes, Ireland levelled the tie at 10-10. Jamie Heaslip took a quick tap penalty 15 metres out, Ian Henderson carried on the drive and forced his way over with Sexton landing the conversion with ease. Half time, Ireland 10, Wales 10.

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Dave Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Nathan White; Iain Henderson, Paul O’Connell (captain), Peter O’Mahony, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Sean O’Brien, Eoin Reddan, Paddy Jackson, Felix Jones. Saturday’s game kick-s off in the Aviva at 2.30 with highlights on RTE from 8pm that night.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins), George North (Northampton Saints), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), James King (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons).

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