Ireland 24-14 Wales

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Wales suffered a first defeat under new head coach Wayne Pivac as Ireland ran four tries past us to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive in Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

There was just the solitary change from the team that had beaten Italy so comprehensively the week before, with Nick Tompkins coming in at centre, but the composure and control seen at the Principality Stadium had not travelled across the Irish sea early in the game.

Firstly Dan Biggar attempted to shepherd a Jacob Stockdale kick through over his own try line but was taken over in possession of the ball himself, then Hadleigh Parkes shanked a left-footed kick into touch on the full.

There was also some worrying defensive work that allowed Ireland to get to the edge with relative ease and piece together some dangerous looking attacking sets, as Wales were very narrow on a number of occasions.

In the end though it was a relatively tame looking phase that secured the breakthrough for the home side after 20 minutes. They moved the ball to the right wing, it seemed there was enough red jerseys there to contain the attack but Jordan Larmour was able to step inside Nick Tompkins, shrug off Tomos Williams and dive over.

That seemed to spark Wales into life though as we finally put some phases together in the Irish half and a moment of magic got us over the try line. Alun Wyn Jones produced an offload for Dan Biggar who found Tomos Williams on his shoulder to dive over, Biggar adding the extras and taking the lead.

Tomos Williams Ireland 2.jpg

Unfortunately for Williams though it was a case of test match rugby taking you from hero to zero within minutes as the scrum-half dropped a regulation pass as the away side tried to exit their own five metre line and gave Ireland great field position.

The scrum was held but a few phases later Tadhg Furlong was on hand to drive over the try line with the help of Peter O’Mahony and Rob Herring. Johnny Sexton converted and the home side took a 12-7 lead in at the break.

Wales needed to get into the game quickly in the second half but unfortunately an Irish penalty win at the breakdown returned them to our 22, and within seven minutes of the action getting back underway they were over the line as a lineout was thrown to the front and the maul driven over powerfully.

Sexton converted leaving the away side desperate for the next score, which we though we had when Hadleigh Parkes crashed over on a classic out-to-in line from inside centre, but the TMO ruled he had lost control of possession just before touching the ball down.

That seemed to sap the life out of the Wales team as some promising attacking sets could not be converted into any try scoring threats thanks to a mixture of handling errors and poor decisions being made at crucial times.

Hadleigh Parkes Ireland.jpg

Ireland managed the game brilliantly, building pressure when in possession and pinning us back in our own half, as the lack of a sustained breakdown threat in the side was keenly felt. The hosts were able to go phase-to-phase with little threat that they would be turned over.

In the end the inevitable happened as the Irish forward continued to carry the ball hard through the middle of the field and when the ball was spun wide Andrew Conway was free to get over in the corner for a deserved try, earning a bonus point for the men in green.

There was just time for Wales to get on the scoreboard again as Justin Tipuric stretched for the line after a well-worked set piece and driving maul from five metres out, with Halfpenny converting, but the end result wasn’t changed.

Ireland the deserved winners with the full five points to take forward in their quest for a second Grand Slam in three years, while Wales were left to rue the lack of execution and clinical attack that the opposition brought to proceedings, and a defensive game plan that too often left them narrow.

The set piece will also be a concern as the lineout struggled throughout the game, but the problems are not all new. Supporters will remember struggling in Dublin in 2018 and 2014 under Warren Gatland as the wait for a Six Nations win at the Aviva Stadium will now stretch to 10 years.

Other issues are part of the evolution we are seeing under Wayne Pivac and his coaching team, with no need for panic yet. Next time out against France at the Principality Stadium will be a really good test of just where this Welsh team is.

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