Ireland’s 37-27 bonus point win over Wales

Updated: February 25, 2018
NatWest 6 Nations

Joe Schmidt’s Irish side gained a bonus-point victory over Wales in a tense NatWest 6 Nations game at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Against a side with an excellent defence, the Irish outscored Wales by five tries to three. With the subsequent Scottish 25-13 victory over England at Murrayfield, Ireland is now in a strong position in this year’s Championship, sitting five points clear of second-placed England.

The Test match wasn’t as easy as the final score line might suggest, however. The usually so-reliable Johnny Sexton had an off day with his place kicking, missing three kicks at the posts in the opening 15 minutes. It took the Leinster flyhalf until his third attempt in the 35th minute of the first half before he managed to successfully kick a penalty.

By that stage he had failed to convert a Jacob Stockdale try, Ireland’s opening score of the international, and had missed an earlier penalty kick a player of his quality would expect to score.

Wales had drawn first blood in the game through a Leigh Halfpenny penalty before winger Stockdale’s five-pointer had edged Ireland 5-3 in front.

Gareth Davies soon put his side back in control on the score board when he touched down for a five-pointer (20th minute). When referee Glen Jackson (New Zealand) signalled advantage to Wales, Ireland incredibly seemed to stop playing, allowing Davies a clear run to the line. Halfpenny’s second successful kick gave the visitors a 10-5 advantage before another well-taken effort from the Welsh kicker extended his side’s advantage to 13-5.

Sexton’s first successful kick of the game in the 35th minute reduced the deficit to 5 points. A Bundee Aki try on the cusp of half time settled Irish nerves. Multiple phases from Ireland allowed Aki, making his fifth appearance in the green of Ireland, stretch over for a 13-13 score line. Two well-taken Sexton kicks, the first a conversion, then a penalty from in front of the posts, gave Ireland an unexpected 15-13 lead at the interval.

Ireland’s try haul continued in the second half with Dan Leavy, Cian Healy and Jacob Stockdale (again) all contributing crucial scores.

Dan Leavy’s try under the posts in 44th minute came after a break from fullback Rob Kearney, a great step from Keith Earls, and Conor Murray showing his athleticism and agility to ensure he didn’t lose possession of the ball. Sexton kicked the conversion as Ireland put two scores between themselves and the Welsh at 22-13.

Cian Healy scored Ireland’s next try when squeezing over on the blindside on 53 minutes, with Sexton unfortunately unable to convert this time, his effort going right and wide. Wales were now without a score for 23 minutes. Aaron Shingler’s 61st minute try which saw the visitors go the full width of the field with just three passes, and Halfpenny’s fourth successful kick from five attempts cut the Irish lead to 27-20.

When Ireland’s replacement front row hammered their Welsh counterparts in the scrum on 75 minutes, Johnny Sexton noticeably turned away, allowing Conor Murray kick the three-pointer to push the Irish 10 points ahead.

Scott Evans instantly responded with a try for Wales but an astute CJ Stander prevented the winger from touching down under the posts, ensuring Halfpenny had a more difficult kick for the conversion. Neither the angle nor the distance mattered to Halfpenny – he slotted another score over, leaving a single penalty (30-27) between the sides in dying minutes of the game.

With Warren Gatland’s side having to go for a try, a long pass out was intercepted by the alert Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale, allowing him score his second try on the day, his eight to date at international level. Joey Carbery, who had replaced Sexton late on, stepped forward to convert and give Ireland a ten point success.

Ireland face Scotland in two weeks time and following their Calcutta Cup success on Saturday, Schmidt’s side must not take their Celtic cousins for granted, despite their poor performances, prior to Saturday evening, in this year’s NatWest 6 Nations.

The Irish team will hope to maintain their unbeaten home record in the Six Nations since Schmidt took over in 2013, before a trip to Twickenham on St Patrick’s weekend, with a possible Triple Crown, Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam all at stake.


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