By Gary Watton
March 12 2017
After two consecutive defeats, Wales needed a reaction, especially as careers and Lions places were on the line. In the event, the hosts did indeed respond to the challenge, producing a brilliant defensive display against an impotent Irish team that failed to score a single try, despite countless efforts to break home resistance. Instead, it was the reds who ran in three tries, all of which amounted to excellent counter attacking. The final margin of thirteen points was a bit harsh upon the losers, but it was a sharp reminder that tries are crucial. Trouble is that the greens appear to be still intoxicated from their historic victory against the All Blacks. They need to learn a thing or two from the champions England about how to attack with pace and precision.
Instead of which, the Oirish juggernaut appears to be one-dimensional, lacking the inspiration of an O'Driscoll. Even the once-formidable battering ram of Sean O'Brien failed to build any momentum with go forward possession. CJ Stander made one fine touchline dart in the first half and the peripheral Ryan did go on a brief rampage in the second half. Otherwise, the Irish advance was very one paced.
However, it is true that it could all have been so much different. The away team once more demonstrated their knack of losing their own line out from a penalty kick near the opponents line. Not just spurning the opportunity of three certain points, Best and chums fluffed their lines, as their gamble didn't pay off. In fact the Irish line out was burgled three times, a criminal return for such a much-vaunted unit.
Then worst of all, just when incessant Irish pressure resulting from a belatedly successful catch and drive seemed certain to achieve a try, along comes Robbie Henshaw on a suicide mission to drive into the side of a maul, denying Ireland a likely seven points and the chance to take the lead with little over ten minutes remaining. This moment just about summed up the Keystone Cops attacking of Ireland.
Of course, Ireland wouldn't be Ireland if they didn't rise from the depths and defy John Bull this forthcoming Saturday. However, a growing number of observers are expressing disquiet at our traditional custom of wheeling out big performances from time to time, whilst shooting ourselves in the foot on other occasions. The team needs to decide if it wants to be the model of consistency, or just giant killers who raise their game against the very best. Until Schmidt's troops work out a way of conquering all their European neighbours in the same campaign, we ourselves cannot be counted amongst the very best.
Wales 22 IRELAND 9; in Cardiff; Friday the 10th of March 2017.
10 Sexton (two penalties)
2 Best (captain)
Used replacements: Marmion, Healy, Henderson, O'Mahony, Bowe, Jackson [penalty], Ryan.J, Scannell