I don’t know if Ireland’s youngsters should be relieved or disappointed with this result?
Wales dominated territory and possession to such an extent in the opening exchanges that it looked as though they would run away with it, but, while the Welsh squandered chance after chance, the Irish finished with impressive efficiency.
Wales (3) 17
TRY: Dion Jones
PEN: Sam Davies (4)
Ireland (7) 15
TRY: Luke McGrath, Tom Daly
CON: Tom Daly
PEN: Tom Daly
The home side dominated the first quarter with their scrum well on top but the Welsh out-half, Sam Davies left his kicking boots at home, missing his first four attempts at goal. A break from the Welsh back row should also have resulted in a try but excellent timing from Ulster’s Stuart Olding, playing at fullback, snuffed out a 4 – 1 overlap but Ireland were hanging on by their fingernails.
With nearly every scrum resulting in a penalty to Wales it was only a matter of time before they got on the scoreboard and Davies finally got it ticking over with a penalty in front of the posts. 3-0.
The score seemed to jolt Ireland into action and Ireland’s scrum-half, and captain, Luke McGrath, got the ball rolling with some sniping breaks round the edges of the rucks which led to the first sustained period of possession for the visitors.
That was all it took however and they worked their way to the Welsh line with relative ease where the impressive McGrath spotted the gap to touch down from the base of a ruck. Ireland had done precious little but, with Tom Daly converting, they led 3 – 7.
Wales continued to dominate possession but the Irish defence, with Olding outstanding, coped comfortably and the Ireland back-line continued to look more composed with the ball in hand with McGrath and out-half Steve Crosbie looking dangerous. However the teams turned round without further score.
Unfortunately for Ireland, Wales found their kicking boots in the second half and Davies slotted over an early penalty and when Malone’s Chris Taylor was binned, for lying all over a ruck, shortly after Welsh took advantage with full-back Dion Jones going over after a scrum to put the home side in front 11-7.
With Taylor still in the bin, Wales knew they had to capitalise on every scoring opportunity and Davies extended their lead further to 14-7 after a penalty.
Taylor returned as one of the Welsh props was binned and Ireland, who continued to look more comfortable on the ball, struck back with an unconverted try through from Tom Daly to take the score to 14 – 12.
A Davies penalty put Wales 17 – 12 in front but Ireland finished the game strongly and pounded the Welsh defence in the final fifteen minutes. They surprisingly opted for a penalty to take the score to 17 – 15, with ten minutes, to go but were not able to create another chance in the final minutes to snatch an unlikely victory.
IRELAND: Stuart Olding, Alexander O’Meara, Tom Daly, Rory Scannell, Rory Scholes, Steve Crosbie, Luke McGrath, Brian Scott, George McGuigan, Chris Taylor, John Donnan, Gavin Thornbury, Peadar Timmins, Ryan Murphy, Conor Joyce. Replacements: John Andrew, Peter Dooley, Jake Caulfield, Sean McCarthy, Josh van der Flier, John Creighton, Darren Sweetnam, David Panther.
Of the Ulster players on show Stuart Olding was the stand out with his accomplished performance at full back keeping Ireland in the game. Conor Joyce performed well in an out gunned pack but the rest struggled to make an impact.