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Ireland shows cracks in ugly win against Wales

Photo by Thomas Serer on Unsplash

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Ireland kept their back-to-back Grand Slam hopes alive on Saturday with a third Six Nations win in a row against a young Welsh side in Dublin.

Ireland seemed to be running away with the match going into half time with a 17-0 lead, thanks to tries from Dan Sheehan and James Lowe. However, Wales regrouped for the second half to make more of a contest of the match. Despite this improvement from the visitors, late tries from Ciarán Frawley and Tadhg Beirne eventually secured the bonus-point victory for Ireland.

The final 31-7 score may be a bit kind to Ireland’s performance, however. In a frustrating game to watch, there were few standout performers. Tadhg Beirne, who received a yellow card in the first half for collapsing a Welsh maul and giving away a penalty try, would have otherwise been a deserving player of the match. In addition to his try, he impressed with both his carrying and defensive work, turning over a Welsh maul as soon as he returned from the sin bin.

Despite a first half performance where Ireland dominated possession, they failed to convert this into points. They were also plagued with errors at the lineout, with both Dan Sheehan and replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher misfiring throws.

The second half saw the match become more chaotic, with the ball being kept in play for over 7 minutes at one point. This would not have been an issue if the rugby on display during this passage was more entertaining, however it consisted of handling errors and aimless kicks from both sides.

Guinness Six Nations

Bundee Aki was awarded the player of the match accolade at the end of the match, having given a typically reliable performance at inside-centre, reprising his old Connacht centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw. He impressed with his carrying, winning collisions every time he touched the ball.

Ciarán Frawley, who filled in at fullback for the injured Hugo Keenan, had a decent game despite not being fully tested by Wales’ lack of a kicking strategy. He did manage to score a try late in the game after running a hard line on to an excellent pass from Jamison Gibson-Park, however Andy Farrell may still have cause for concern at the lack of depth Ireland has in that position.

Wales for the large part were thoroughly unimpressive, despite coach Warren Gatland claiming they intended to cause an upset in Landsdowne. This Welsh team is very much in a transitory period, with Gatland filling his squad with young players, the majority of whom are inexperienced at test level.

One standout player for the visitors was 21-year-old fullback Cameron Winnett, who showed composure under the high ball and real intent in attack, making an impressive line break when counter-attacking in the second half.  

Ireland now sits at the top of the table with 15 points heading into their next fixture against England on the 9th of March at Twickenham, where they will need to be in better form if they want to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive. Luckily they will have a break this weekend to prepare.

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