Andy Farrell’s team achieved victory despite performance levels waning in the second half in Cardiff
By Benjamin Geary
Ireland hit the ground running in their opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship on Saturday with a 34-10 victory over Warren Gatland’s Wales.
The number one ranked team in the world underlined their status with a clinical display in the Welsh capital, but were not at the races for the full 80 minutes
Most of the game’s opening half was played in the home team’s territory, with Ireland’s first score coming in the second minute.
Number 8 Caelan Doris found his way over the line to the surprise of a shellshocked Welsh defence, with captain Johnny Sexton adding the extras.
Munster man and centurion Conor Murray proved doubters wrong as he led an early charge that devastated the opposition.
Ireland made the most of the Welsh disorganisation, scoring their second try before the ten-minute mark.
Gatland’s men did manage to gain some territory and string together some phases in the Irish half but were unable to wrestle over the Irish line.
Three points from the boot of Dan Biggar were their only spoils in the first half.
An Irish scrum deep inside the Welsh twenty-two set the stage for what they hoped to be their third try, yet some scrappy defence from the Welsh limited the damage to just three points.
The Welsh settled into the game and were beginning to set the fast tempo, while Ireland struggled to remain composed in defence.
Among the chaos orchestrated by the home side, winger James Lowe chose his moment to pounce and intercepted a stray pass from Welsh hands and galloped down the field for try number three before the half ended.
Wales began the second half strong, with the opening minutes being played in the Irish half, and they pulled one try back to show for it.
A lineout inside the Irish 22 laid the foundation for a Welsh attack, completed by Welsh fullback Liam Williams crashing over for the home side’s first score.
However, the Welsh momentum was ruined by the actions of the try scorer later on, who was shown yellow after a high tackle on Irish captain Johnny Sexton.
Ireland’s bonus point try came in the game’s final ten minutes courtesy of Doris’ partner-in-crime Josh Van Der Flier.
Crashing into an exhausted Welsh defence, the World Player of the Year barrelled over the try line unopposed.
Despite Welsh efforts to break apart Ireland’s defence in the game’s closing minutes, most notably from Dragons winger Rio Dyer, the home side could not soften the harsh 34-10 scoreline.
Man of the match: Caelan Doris
Wales: Liam Williams (sin bin 65′); Josh Adams, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer (Alex Cuthbert 68′); Dan Biggar (Owen Williams 67′), Tomos Williams (Rhys Webb 64′); Gareth Thomas (Rhys Carré 54′), Ken Owens (C) (Scott Baldwin 61′), Tomas Francis (Dillon Lewis 40′); Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (Dafydd Jenkins 61′); Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric (Tommy Reffell 54′), Taulupe Faletau.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey (Bundee Aki 60′), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (C) (Ross Byrne 68′), Conor Murray (Craig Casey 64′); Andrew Porter (Dave Kilcoyne 73′), Dan Sheehan (Rob Herring ‘), Finlay Bealham (Tom O’Toole 60′); Tadhg Beirne (Iain Henderson 54′), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony (Jack Conan 60′), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.