Ireland handed Wales a first Six Nations defeat in nine matches as they ran in four tries for an impressive 24-14 bonus-point victory in Dublin on Saturday.
Andy Farrell’s side were laboured in their win over Scotland on the opening week, but this time tries from Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, Josh van der Flier and Andrew Conway secured a morale-boosting triumph.
Ireland have now won 17 of their last 18 Tests at the Aviva Stadium and will travel to play England – the only team to beat them in that marvellous run – on matchday three with a 100 per cent record in this year’s tournament.
Wales’ hopes of winning back-to-back Grand Slams and equalling their best-ever run in the competition, a run of nine victories that ended in 1973, were ended as new head coach Wayne Pivac suffered his first defeat.
Tomos Williams and Justin Tipuric scored a try in each half for the defending champions, but Wales have still not enjoyed a Six Nations win in Ireland since 2012.
Ireland made the early running and while a gutsy decision to go for the corner with a penalty did not pay off, the hosts did get a 19th-minute breakthrough.
After the forwards made impressive ground, Larmour seized an opening as he cut inside and fought his way past Nick Tompkins before powering over, although Johnny Sexton shanked a dreadful conversion wide.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 8, 2020
A frustrating start for Wales got worse when in-form wing Josh Adams was lost to injury, though they struck out of the blue after 27 minutes when Williams went over after capitalising on a superb exchange between Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones.
But Williams made a costly knock-on just four minutes later to present Ireland with an attacking scrum and Furlong forced his way across the line, with Sexton this time adding the extras to give his side a 12-7 half-time lead.
A stolen lineout gave Ireland momentum just after the restart and, after they kicked a penalty into touch, Van der Flier rolled over the line as part of a driving maul, with Sexton extending the advantage to 12 points.
Hadleigh Parkes was inches away from getting Wales back into it, but the TMO ruled he had just lost control of the ball with a powerful reach forward to the try-line.
Another big chance went begging when Ireland forced a scrum collapse under their own goalposts, a pivotal moment the home forwards celebrated like a match-winning try.
Conway made sure of the victory and a bonus point five minutes from time as he charged in down the right after being released by Larmour, with Tipuric’s late stretch over the line at the other end only proving a consolation.
CJ Stander superb once again
Stander was man of the match at blindside flanker last week and won that award again in this game after switching to number eight as part of a re-shuffle that saw Peter O’Mahony return to the line-up with Caelan Doris ruled out. A last-minute trip to the sin-bin for entering the ruck off his feet did not take the shine off a display which saw him make all 12 of his tackles, embark on nine carries and win three of Ireland’s five turnovers, compared to zero turnovers for the whole Wales team.
Wales count the cost of defeat
As well as suffering a disappointing loss that halts their Six Nations momentum, Wales suffered two key injuries and they will hope for good news on each setback during the break before the next batch of matches.
In addition to Adams coming off in the first half, Dan Biggar left with a head injury early in the second and did not return, with Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw also suffering a head knock.
Key Opta Facts: Furlong on form
– Furlong has scored four tries for Ireland since the beginning of 2019, more than any other prop in Test rugby in that time.
– Ireland are unbeaten in their last four home games against Wales in the Five/Six Nations (W3, D1), their best run at home to Wales in the tournament since 1966-1974 (also W3, D1).
– Wales’ defeat ended any hopes of completing back-to-back Grand Slams, a feat that is yet to be achieved in the Six Nations (France won consecutive Grand Slams in the Five Nations, 1997 and 1998).
– Ireland have lost just two of their last 23 Test matches on home soil (W20, D1) with only New Zealand (Nov 2016) and England (Feb 2019) coming away from Dublin with victory in that spell.
– Conway scored his 10th try in his 20th Test for Ireland, nine of those scores have come in his 11 starts on the wing for his country.
After a short break without any Six Nations matches, Wales will look to bounce back when they take on France in Cardiff on February 22, with Ireland facing England in a huge match at Twickenham a day later.
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