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cropped-Crest_1_Fru.pngIreland (13) 16
TRY: Conor Murray. CON: Johnny Sexton. PEN: Johnny Sexton (3)

Wales (10) 16
TRY: Taulupe Falateu. CON: Rhys Priestland. PEN: Rhys Priestland (3)

Ireland and Wales battled to a draw at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon in the final Six Nations match of the weekend.

Ireland’s scores came from Conor Murray who crossed for a try and Johnny Sexton was on hand to knock over the conversion and three penalties. Wales replied with a try from Taulupe Falateu with replacement out half Rhys Priestland adding the conversion and three penalties.

As I was stuck for six hours on the M1 on Friday afternoon I didn’t get the chance to stick up a preview of this match but if I did I’d have predicted a big win for the Welsh. However with Ulster top of the PRO12 and all the Provinces in the top six I was perhaps being a bit harsh on the players selected.

The Irish dominated the first half hour, with Sexton landing two penalties before Murray dummied a quick recycle close to line to cross for the opening try. Sexton converted and Ireland led 10 – 0 on the 30 minute mark.

Priestland cut the lead by three with a penalty before Faletau took advantage of the ball being left behind at a scrum close to the Irish line. With the defence wrong footed the Welsh No 8 snaffled the ball to cross. Priestland’s conversion brought the score to 13 – 10 at the break with the Welsh in the ascendancy.

The Welsh out half brought the teams level with his second penalty on the 46th minute but, with the familiarity of the players largely cancelling each other out, the second half was pretty uneventful until the final ten minutes.

A patient build up by Wales led to a penalty, just past the Ireland ten yard line, and Priestland knocked it over to give the Welsh a three point lead with 8 minutes left.

The crowd didn’t have to sweat too long as two minutes later Sexton levelled the game, thanks to a penalty from a poor clearance kick from the Welsh scrum half.

Both teams tried to keep the ball alive, to force a result, but the defences dominated and the game ended in a draw.

Comment

Given the pressure that Ireland were under going into this match I’d guess that they would be the happiest with the draw.

A strong defence and an abrasive back row will take you a long way in the modern game and Tommy O’Donnell, Jamie Heaslip and CJ Stander certainly stepped up. However, despite making far and away the most line breaks, Ireland’s attacks were mostly nullified with the Welsh pack being on top overall, particularly in the scrums.

Sexton and Andrew Trimble were the pick of the backs, in my opinion, but the efforts of Jarred Payne and Robbie Henshaw were mostly cancelled out by their Welsh counterparts, Jamie Roberts being particularly effective.

Zebo at full back was a mixed bag, he came into the line well but there were a few schoolboy errors positionally. With Earls struggling to make the French game on Saturday there would be grounds for switching Payne to fullback, Zebo to the wing and bringing in Stuart McCloskey to partner Henshaw in the centre.

Lineups

IRELAND WALES
Simon Zebo15Liam Williams
Andrew Trimble14George North
Jared Payne13Jonathan Davies
Robbie Henshaw12Jamie Roberts
Keith Earls11Tom James
Jonathan Sexton10Dan Biggar
Conor Murray9Gareth Davies
Jack McGrath1Rob Evans
Rory Best2Scott Baldwin
Nathan White3Samson Lee
Mike McCarthy4Luke Charteris
Devin Toner5Alun Wyn Jones
CJ Stander6Sam Warburton
Tommy O’Donnell7Justin Tipuric
Jamie Heaslip8Taulupe Faletau
Sean Cronin16Ken Owens
James Cronin17Gethin Jenkins
Tadhg Furlong18Tomas Francis
Donnacha Ryan19Bradley Davies
Rhys Ruddock20Dan Lydiate
Kieran Marmion21Lloyd Williams
Ian Madigan22Rhys Priestland
Dave Kearney23Alex Cuthbert
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