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Farrell outstanding, Ireland's depth delivers and a huge effort from the pack

Joe Schmidt will pick out the flaws in his team’s display but there were many positives.

IRELAND SECURED THEIR third win from three Six Nations games with a 37-27 victory over Wales in today’s clash in Dublin.

Read our match report here.

Chris Farrell’s big day

The loss of Robbie Henshaw remains a blow for Ireland in this championship, but Munster man Chris Farrell did more than enough to fill the void today with a superb man-of-the-match performance at outside centre.

Chris Farrell with his Man of the Match award Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

This contest was perfectly suited to the 24-year-old’s strengths, with his carrying power obvious throughout, while his mobility and imposing frame allowed Farrell to impose himself on kick chase and with that excellent first-half catch of a Johnny Sexton restart.

There were a handful of the passes that Joe Schmidt had mentioned might be a feature of Farrell’s game and although he slipped off a couple of tackle attempts, he had strong moments defensively too.

This was just Farrell’s third cap for Ireland but he demonstrated the composure of a veteran to provide so many momentum-lifting moments for Ireland. Not bad for a fourth-choice 13.

Ireland’s forward muscle

There was some superb attacking play from Ireland further out the pitch – with the likes of Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Johnny Sexton, Farrell, Dan Leavy and Stockdale featuring prominently – but Ireland’s forward pack deserve a huge share of the credit for this win.

Their ball-carrying power was absolutely pivotal, laying the platform or leading directly to four of their five tries. Cian Healy, Leavy and CJ Stander were prominent, while 21-year-old James Ryan stood up impressively again.

Ireland’s close-in carrying game has struggled to break down the Welsh in recent years but they backed it once again and got notable rewards.

The maul was excellent from Ireland too, having been less influential in this championship up until today, while the scrum yielded an important late penalty for Conor Murray to slot.

Forwards coach Simon Easterby and his men can take some pride in that performance.

A Six Nations stunner

The drama, the tension, the thrills. This Six Nations clash had plenty of everything – from tries to aerial battles and set-piece battles to sheer desire on both sides not to emerge with defeat.

Keith Earls and Steff Evans Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The see-saw nature of the second half was absorbing, Wales scoring through Steff Evans with less than five minutes remaining to throw it back in the balance even after Murray’s penalty had extended the Irish lead to 10 points.

Warren Gatland’s men were incredibly difficult for Ireland to shake off and the raucous celebrations of Jacob Stockdale’s interception try at the end were smeared with plenty of relief as well as joy.

This fixture has served up so many memorable battles in recent years and here was another one.

The depth delivers

The major focus for Joe Schmidt and Ireland since the 2015 World Cup exit at the hands of Argentina – when they were missing five key players and suffered – has been to build the depth of this squad.

New faces have emerged and thrived in the last year or so, with the likes of James Ryan, Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Porter emerging particularly impressively.

And yet, it felt like Ireland’s new-found depth still had some uncertainty around it in the build-up to this game. Under the more severe pressure of a must-win Six Nations contest against a team as good as Wales, could the less experienced men deliver?

The answer was a resounding yes, with Ryan and Porter superb up front, while Stockdale scored two tries, albeit while having a shaky moment or two in defence. Leavy at openside was superb, impressive at the breakdown and aggressive in the other collisions.

Farrell’s performance further underlined the depth, while Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath and John Ryan’s scrum penalty off the bench was a big moment after the first-choice Ireland front row had spent all of their energy.

The losses of Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson were well covered as Ireland’s depth delivered.

Work-ons, always

The Grand Slam dream is very much alive and Ireland will work towards the clash with Scotland in Dublin in two weekends’ time with huge enthusiasm and belief after another victory under stress.

Joe Schmidt talks to his players before the game Schmidt's men focus on Scotland next. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

As ever, Schmidt will pick out many aspects of this performance that were disappointing, while Andy Farrell will be poring over footage of Ireland conceding three tries.

All of that said, Ireland were excellent in so many aspects of this game and Wales deserve to be mentioned for their part in the contest. Sometimes, conceded tries are as much down to the excellence of the opposition attack as defensive errors.

The defensive slips will be a slight worry for Ireland but they are improving as this championship develops and Schmidt’s ceaseless drive for more should ensure that if they can overcome the Scots in round four, they will head to Twickenham in good shape for a possible Grand Slam decider.

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Murray Kinsella

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