Wales 25-7 Ireland

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Wales won their third and final Grand Slam of the Warren Gatland era thanks to a comprehensive victory over Ireland at a rain sodden Principality Stadium.

All the build up had been focused on the row over whether the roof should be open or closed, with the last Gatland v Joe Schmidt affair typically dominated by comments made in media events and press conferences.

However, the talking was always going to be done on the field, with Wales chasing a Grand Slam and Ireland still harbouring hopes of a Six Nations Championship if results went their way having gradually got better as the tournament wore on.

It was Wales who struck the early blow though, getting stuck into proceedings straight from kick-off as George North forced Jacob Stockdale straight into touch.

The ensuing driving maul resulted in Ireland being penalised, and from the free play Gareth Anscombe produced an inch perfect chip kick for Hadleigh Parkes to collect and score after just a minute and eight seconds. Anscombe converting to complete the dream start.

Hadleigh Parkes Ireland
Hadleigh Parkes opens the scoring

Ireland went to hit back a few minutes later, a creative piece of play seeing them faking kicking to touch from a penalty and actually producing a cross kick for Stockdale, but from try scorer to try saver came Parkes with a superb covering tackle.

As the game settled down it was Wales who seemed to be getting the upper hand, and after Liam Williams brilliantly chased a Dan Biggar kick, on early for the injured George North, Ireland were penalised for going off their feet and Anscombe extended the lead.

Ireland being penalised became quite a trend through the rest of the first half, as referee Angus Gardiner picked up on what social media already knew, that the men in green were very keen on side entries and going off their feet at the breakdown.

In addition to this, the Welsh set piece was dominant, with maul defence, defensive lineouts, and scrums either producing turnovers or penalties with regularity. Two of them kick-able so that, in the last 10 minutes of the first half, Anscombe was able to put the home side 16-0 up at the break.

Ireland were clearly stunned by that first half, and after half-time clearly felt the need to force the issue. Unfortunately Jonathan Sexton at fly-half was trying to hard, putting one kick out on the full, before sending a kick-off dead after Anscombe had added another three points following a midfield infringement.

With mistakes like that continuing from Sexton and Conor Murray, as well as Anscombe extended the leading further to 22-0, the game was getting away from Ireland, although Wales did try shooting themselves in the foot.

Ireland Gareth Anscombe 2
Gareth Anscombe was flawless off the tee

Twice the ball was spilled inside our own 22, and twice the visitors ended up over the try line, but on the first occasion the ball had crept into touch, while there was a Welsh advantage for the second time.

Anscombe nailed his seventh kick from seven on the day to take the score to 25-0 with 10 minutes to go, and although Ireland kept pushing they could not break the red wall down until two minutes beyond the 80 when Jordan Larmour slid over to avoid total embarrassment for the visitors.

Wales claimed a thoroughly deserved Grand Slam, led by an exemplary Gareth Anscombe kicking performance on the day, but built by total team effort over the five weeks to grind out a few results and complete the feat of winning every game.

A squad that has the tight knit feel of a club side, leaders to rival any others, and a defensive system that is the best in the world. Wales are peaking just at the right time. Next stop, Japan.

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