I was asked for my predictions before this match and very much went with my heart, not my head. I’m not Welsh at all, but my Welsh Uncle gave me a love for all things Welsh Rugby and all of my early memories of the game are around the likes of Barry John and JPR Williams, I met Phil Bennett at a Premiership Rugby Launch one year and was literally beside myself with excitement! My favourite place to watch the International game is The Principality Stadium in Cardiff, with Stade De France hot on its heelsI You’ll therefore realise I predicted a win for Wales, albeit by a small margin. Sadly that proved to be very wide of the mark! Alongside tehfact that Ireland went into this game as the Number 1 team in the World, they’d won 5 of the last 6 encounters.

Wales selection was suffering from the so called Gatland’s Law, or the WRU Senior Players Selection Policy. A rule that means unless a player already has 60 Wales caps under their belt they have to play their club rugby in Wales. That was an agreement signed in 2014 between the WRU and the regions in the Summer 0f 2014. It c came with a form of central contract which has helped the regions to both keep and attract back the Welsh stars. The policy doesn’t apply to those who were already contracted outside of Wales, which is why the likes of Nick Tompkins of Saracens can be picked. While I’m mentioning Tompkins it was a shame he wasn’t in the squad for this match, he’s been in great form for his team so fat this season. Several Wales players including Jake Ball have already left for far flung shores, he’s now playing in Japan and with the turmoil in Welsh Rugby more are likely to follow him at the end of the domestic season. Alun Wyn Jones has been one of my favourite players across the board, but at 37 should he be starting at Lock, or in reality be in the squad at all? Wales and new/old coach Warren Gatland have a lot to resolve in a short space of time.

On to the game and a fact from the BBC sire – Wales scored the fewest (12) and conceded the most points (40) of any side in the first 20 minutes of games in last year’s Championship. How prophetic that fact was! Ireland scored the first of their 4 tries after just 3. minutes, with Clean Doris taking the ball over the line with relative ease. Johnny Sexton had made a beautiful short pass to Tag Beirne who went close, before Connor Murray passed to Doris to make a short dive over the line. Murray was due to be on the bench but an late injury for Jamison Gibson-Park saw him moved to the starting spot. Sexton added the extras.

In the match overall Wales gave away 15 penalties to Ireland’s 13 but it felt like the majority of those came in the first half, one such penalty given away close to their line saw Ireland take a tap penalty; James Ryan getting over the line this time. Ireland were 8 nil up after just 8 minutes. Wales opted for a kick at the posts after winning a penalty in the scrum and Dan Biggar slotted the ball over.

Ireland fans always travel in numbers whether that be for club or country and The Fields of Athenry rang out around the stadium 19 minutes in as they were thrilled with the start their team had made and rightly so! Ireland kept their scoring clock turning over with a penalty from Sexton on 18 minutes.

It’s clear things weren’t going Wales way and in trying to force things Biggar put in a pass which was intercepted by Winger James Lowe, who sped up the pitch from half-way. It was interesting that the player who got the nearest to him was back row player Jac Morgan who really showed some speed, but not enough to trouble the Winger. With 21 minutes on the clock the score was Wales 3 Ireland 24.

After Wales 8th penalty offence within 25 minutes Sexton added 3 to the Ireland score. The rest of the half saw no more points added, Wales worked a chance but Biggar couldn’t release his hands to get the pass away with the line beckoning. The teams went in with the score on Wales 3 Ireland 27.

A few words from Donncha O’Callaghan (from the BBC site) at half-time

Super half for Ireland, Andy Farrell will be delighted with his charges in that first half. There will be frustration for Wales, little areas they need to get right. Their discipline needs to improve for the second half.

Things did improve for Wales in the second half; they won a penalty and went for the corner rather than the posts with just 4 minutes on the second half clock. they went short with the throw – to Centre George North! The forwards did their thing for several phases before the ball went through hands and out to Liam Williams who scored a very welcome try. Andrew Porter was lucky not to see yellow as he threw himself on Williams late, but Wales did restart with a penalty on the halfway line.

Things got heated after Williams’ try

Could Wales make a comeback? Annoyingly things went wrong from the next line-out a throw that wasn’t straight then a penalty given away in the scrum, they failed to take advantage, of their advantage. They missed a good opportunity after a great break from Liam Williams, who’d probably been one Wales best players, Justin Tipuric was close by but he threw a high pass out to Rio Dyer on the wing, it was high, too high for the slight Dyer, the ball went into touch.

Williams was involved in some controversy as things went on, Iain Henderson on in place of Beirne clattered into him after he’d got a kick away, the incident was reviewed but deemed to be just worthy of a penalty. This was the spell of play when Ireland nearly caught up on the penalty count. One of those penalties saw another 5 metre line out and another lost opportunity for Wales as James Ryan stole the ball in the air.

Cue the next piece of controversy involving Liam Williams, he was deemed to have made a high tackle on Sexton; who’d bent and gone into him with his head. Williams was high was the issue, it was deemed a yellow card. The crowd were, rightly, annoyed when Sexton was shown winking on the big screen. He didn’t go for an HIA but was replaced a few minutes later.

Liam Williams went from hero to ‘villain’ in moments

Ireland were able to take advantage of the extra man with 5 minutes of the match remaining, they went through phase after phase before Josh van Der Flier scored between the posts. That was the bonus point try and Ross Byrne who’d replaced Sexton added the extras. The game finished with the score on Wales 10 Ireland 34 a biog win for the visitors and a game which will have left Gatland and his Wales team with a lot to think about. Wales travel to Scotland in the next round, who got their own bonus point win at Twickenham. Ireland face France at home, they were pushed by Italy, but their hopes for a consecutive Grand Slam are alive, that match in Dublin is huge in this tournament!


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