The Scottish Mail on Sunday

GREEN MACHINE

Wales are made to pay for their profligacy as Ireland prove their mettle in setting up a big title challenge

- From Will Kelleher

THE storm stayed away but Ireland built a big green wall to barricade themselves against Welsh tides in Dublin, beating the Grand Slam champions in the Six Nations.

Andy Farrell’s side went in front, then defended for their lives and sniped for scores as Wales lost in this Championsh­ip for the first time in nine games.

It was their previous trip here in the Six Nations when Wales were last beaten — this was not the 37-27 see-saw match of 2018, but was all grit, determinat­ion and resolve.

After a year of faltering Irish captain Johnny Sexton felt fantastic after that. Asked if he enjoyed the win, the No10 said: ‘Yes, it wouldn’t be hard after last year. It was brilliant. It had a bit of everything.’

And Farrell added: ‘It was an improved performanc­e. I thought we were excellent, we were on the front foot in defence and attack.’

It was Jordan Larmour who sprinkled the stardust with a first-half try, then Tadhg Furlong smashed over for a second between Tomos Williams’ dart for Wales.

Josh van der Flier rumbled within a maul for his try and Andrew Conway took the bonus-point score with five minutes left.

And aside from Justin Tipuric’s consolatio­n score that was that — Wales were wasteful when they laid siege to the Irish line, and the green machine held strong.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac admitted: ‘We came up against a side that were desperate to win the match, as we were. We were inaccurate in a lot of our play. When we did get into the areas of the field we wanted to, we weren’t accurate and let the Irish off the hook. When they got down the other end, they made us pay.’

For their first try Ireland slowly went through their short-punching drives in the Welsh 22. They crept along almost to a standstill until Conor Murray fizzed a ball right to the hot-stepping Larmour led Wales into an Irish jig.

Seeing Nick Tompkins, on his first start, unbalanced the full-back nipped inside the Welsh centre and found a vital pocket of space.

Then there was nothing Tomos Williams, Leigh Halfpenny or anyone else could do to stop the 22-year-old scoring a fine try.

Sexton then shanked the conversion which meant when Wales touched down, and Dan Biggar converted it, the visitors led.

The score was sublime. Alun Wyn Jones took a pass from Biggar, rode a tackle and popped to his fly-half inside which sent the No 10 in behind.

Biggar then found Williams tracking inside and fed him for the try.

But Williams went from hero-tozero. Minutes later he dropped a hand-me-down from Jones at the lineout right on his line.

With the scrum five metres out Ireland then went left after a couple of phases to Furlong who biffed over. Sexton converted.

Josh Adams had limped off with a hip injury so Wales were shorn of their most potent attacking weapon.

Ireland then scored a third try. Van der Flier looked to have grounded short, but it was given. Sexton converted.

Wales found more zip and Hadleigh Parkes thought he had scored, but a TMO look decreed he had dropped it over the line.

‘It was a big decision, but the decision was right,’ said Pivac. ‘With 20 minutes to go, it’s game on at that point if it’s scored.’

Welsh hopes died when George North dropped a simple pass on his wing to sum up a profligate performanc­e.

Conway made him pay, catching and scoring in the opposite corner to make it a fourth consecutiv­e home win for the Irish against Wales in the Six Nations.

CJ Stander was sin-binned late on and Tipuric scored a consolatio­n, but Irish foundation­s by that point had been well-laid for a Championsh­ip challenge.

 ??  ?? DROPPED: joy for Ireland’s Conway and Byrne but despair for Parkes (inset)
DROPPED: joy for Ireland’s Conway and Byrne but despair for Parkes (inset)
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