5 lessons from Ireland's superb win over Wales

Ireland’s forwards and a perfectly-executed kicking game feature following the 26-3 victory.

Ireland's forwards performed superbly well.
Ireland's forwards performed superbly well.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ireland’s forwards can be dominant at the top level

Paul O’Connell set a marker for the Irish pack with his powerful tackle on Dan Lydiate in the opening stages, allowing Peter O’Mahony to steal possession. From there on, John Plumtree’s forwards set about dominating the Welsh, destroying them with the ever-improving maul and providing a stream of possession for the Irish halfbacks from the line-out.

There was such a sense of organisation about Ireland’s mauling efforts as they patiently wait for a chink in the Welsh defence, before powering through. The ability to make the maul long, thereby keeping the ball well out of Wales’ grasp, was essential. Joe Schmidt admitted afterwards that he hadn’t been entirely happy with possession from the scrum, but Ireland largely looked comfortable there too.

Kicking-based game plan was justified

Schmidt claimed that Ireland had prepared this game plan all week with a view to managing the expected poor weather, but also admitted that it had been developed with potential Welsh weaknesses in mind too. The earliest official match stats say that Ireland kicked the ball 46 times out of hand, while Gatland’s men did so on 27 occasions.

Jonny Sexton carried out the game plan wonderfully well for Ireland, nudging several superb kicks in behind the Welsh wingers and crucially bypassing their defensive strengths in Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate. Conor Murray deserves credit too for some excellent box kicking throughout.

The back row looks very balanced


O’Mahony surges forward in attack. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.

It must be taken into account that Wales were poor, but much of that was down to the excellence of Ireland. Oddly enough, Sean O’Brien was not missed in this encounter as the Irish back-row showed lots of balance and worked together with understanding in defence.

Peter O’Mahony played like a classic ‘groundhog’ openside flanker, while Chris Henry did more of the close-in grappling around the rucks. Jamie Heaslip led the tackle count with 12, while also contributing a handful of carries. One of the major reasons that O’Brien’s absence may not have been felt was that the Irish back row were rarely asked to carry the ball into contact. Still, this trio is developing promisingly.

Keeping Wales try-less was crucial

The last time Ireland prevented Wales from scoring a try was back in 2010. This was an excellent defensive performance from Les Kiss’ charges as they worked incredibly hard to keep their line intact. There were missed tackles of course, but the manner in which Ireland scrambled to cover and react was superb.

Warren Gatland’s side did threaten to score on occasions, battering their way to within metres of Ireland’s line, but it was the home team who showed more composure in those situations. Wales’ desperation was exemplified by Rhodri Jones being pinged for double movement as the visitors came close. Ireland trusted their system without conceding silly penalties, whereas Wales simply didn’t have calm heads in attack.

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Different faces making their presence felt

imageToner competes with Alun-Wyn Jones in the air. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.

We know that we’re going to get strong performances more often that not from the likes of Paul O’Connell, Jonny Sexton, Cian Healy, Rob Kearney, Jamie Heaslip and Rory Best. Men such as them are established internationals of class. But rugby is about more than five or six key players; the stars need their teammates to assume prominent roles too.

Devin Toner was again immense at the set-piece, while Andrew Trimble and Dave Kearney were crucial to the success of Ireland’s kicking game. O’Mahony is ensuring that his long-term promise is now becoming long-term excellence for Ireland. Gordon D’Arcy carried effectively, while Henry cleaned up any scrappy ball. The bench again made its impact felt in this wonderful 23-man game that is rugby.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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