# Job Done
Farrell's Ireland get Six Nations tilt rolling with bonus-point win in Cardiff
The visitors played some stunning rugby in the first half but had a wobble after the break.

Wales 10

Ireland 34

THIS WAS PERHAPS the most stressful bonus-point win Andy Farrell will ever oversee as Ireland boss, but the most important thing is that his team is up and running in their bid for a Six Nations title.

Four tries were deserved reward for an Ireland performance that was sensational for the opening 30 minutes, with Caelan Doris, James Ryan, and James Lowe all crossing in a dominant first half-hour that left Ireland with their biggest-ever Six Nations half-time lead in Cardiff.

james-lowe-celebrates-after-scoring Dan Sheridan / INPHO James Lowe celebrates. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The stress kicked in after half-time as Ireland struggled to build on their 27-3 advantage, instead inviting Welsh pressure. Thankfully for the visitors, Warren Gatland’s side were too inaccurate to take full advantage.

Despite those second-half scares, Ireland steadied themselves to finish strongly with a fourth try from Josh van der Flier, as Ross Byrne made a good impression off the bench after replacing captain Johnny Sexton.

Ireland hadn’t won here at the Principality Stadium since 2013 so this is a hugely welcome victory. It was never likely to be pitch-perfect on the opening day of the championship but a big win in Cardiff should never be sneered at. This was another big step for Farrell’s side, even if there was a wobble in among the good stuff.

For large periods, the Irish pack were simply too powerful and clinical for the Welsh, while scrum-half Conor Murray made some excellent contributions after stepping into the starting side for the injured Jamison Gibson-Park.

Farrell would have enjoyed the sight of tighthead prop Finlay Bealham winning a big scrum penalty on his first Six Nations start.

The Ireland boss won’t have been surprised by the latest brilliant showing from fullback Hugo Keenan, who went to another level with a composed, accurate, assertive performance that underlined his status as a leader for this Irish team.

After the pre-match disruption with the injuries for Gibson-Park and also Cian Healy, ruled out of his bench spot with Dave Kilcoyne stepping in, Farrell will be delighted with the outcome in Cardiff.

He knows they need to be sharper for 80 minutes next weekend at home against the French, but this was a happy first outing.

caelan-doris-scores-their-first-try-despite-liam-williams Dan Sheridan / INPHO Caelan Doris scores for Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland had spoken all week about their focus on a fast start and they stayed true to their word, silencing the home fans in the opening two minutes. First they swept the ball wide left through Stuart McCloskey for Lowe to kick ahead and pressure Wales to hack into touch.

From that platform, the forwards carried aggressively as Murray and Sexton directed the operation, the Ireland captain sending Ryan surging close to the tryline with an inside pass before Doris smashed over right on the 2:00 mark.

Fullback Liam Williams was tackled into touch on the first Welsh attack, but Ireland were really on it. Their second score arrived in the ninth minute from a five-metre tap penalty as Dan Sheehan powered within a metre and then Ryan barged over with a latch from Beirne. 

Ireland were 14-0 to the good as The Fields of Athenry rang out around the Principality after just 10 minutes.

There was a scare soon after, though, as the match officials seemingly missed a knock-on in the tackle by Tomas Francis as Sexton passed and Welsh wing Rio Dyer nudged the ball ahead twice, only a sensational bit of cover from Keenan denying him a finish.

But it meant a five-metre Wales scrum for Keenan carrying back over his line and Ireland were offside in the next passage, allowing Dan Biggar to slot three points.

james-ryan-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try-with-johnny-sexton Dan Sheridan / INPHO James Ryan bagged Ireland's second score. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

As they bossed the aerial game through Keenan and co., Ireland continued to bully Wales in the carry and then that big scrum penalty for Bealham resulted in Sexton extending the Irish lead just before the quarter-mark.

That was followed swiftly by the third Irish try. This time it came from Simon Easterby’s well-drilled defence as Lowe topped off a muscular set by making a good read and intercept of Biggar’s pass to Williams on the right just outside the Irish 22. Lowe sprinted clear from 75 metres out and Sexton converted.

Wales nearly responded after Ireland botched their exit attempt off the restart. From the scrum, 20-year-old Joe Hawkins smashed through Sexton on first phase and a try looked inevitable. But as Biggar hesitated on his pass, Ringrose made a stunning tackle even after he had slipped. Lowe pounced for a turnover and the misery continued for Wales.

Indeed, Ireland were actually scoring at a point a minute at this stage of the first half, Sexton popping over another three points in the 27th after Wales were again disciplined for not rolling away from the tackle. 

It was too good to last to the break, however, as Wales finally gained some momentum via a Doris knock-on metres from their tryline, then a scrum penalty against Andrew Porter, then a breakdown turnover penalty earned by George North and Williams.

Suddenly, they were down in the Irish 22 and North made a huge carry before flanker Jac Morgan thundered around the corner and looked certain to finish. It took a clever intervention from Porter to stop him, the Ireland loosehead dropping in underneath the ball to hold him up, Bealham assisting as second man in.

dan-sheehan-with-jac-morgan Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheehan breaks for Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland then needlessly gave themselves more defensive work to do as Murray box-kicked away with five seconds of the half left. Wales won a penalty with the possession and though they overthrew the lineout, Sheehan hacked down the middle of the pitch and Biggar responded by hanging up a bomb that he won back.

Morgan burst down the right and attempted to chip back inside for Justin Tipuric but his kick bounced infield for a relieved McCloskey to kick it out and signal that 27-3 lead at the break.

But any hopes of Ireland pushing on from there for a record win – which remains a 54-10 victory here in 2002 – were quashed within five minutes of the restart as two Irish penalties allowed the Welsh into the right corner, where North nearly scored off a smart trick lineout play.

Gatland’s men recycled and swept the ball through Hawkins and Biggar’s hands for Williams to cross for their first try.

Momentum was on the Welsh side as Ireland suddenly looked by far the poorer side. A needless offload attempt from Beirne was followed swiftly by a penalty against Lowe for escorting on a kick, but Doris produced a big choke tackle turnover under the Irish posts to lift the pressure.

There was another big scare soon after as Williams broke through on kick return and offloaded to Tipuric, but the flanker’s pass was over the head of Dyer and he fell into touch. 

josh-van-der-flier-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-fourth-try Dan Sheridan / INPHO Josh van der Flier scored Ireland's fourth try. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Iain Henderson, just on the pitch, was then penalised for making contact with Williams after his kick ahead and even after the Welsh knocked-on on the ensuring attack, Sexton cross-kicked ambitiously only to find Dyer and invite more pressure. To Ireland’s relief, the Welsh knocked on again.

Ireland had a chance for their bonus-point try with 20 minutes left but from a 10-metre lineout on the right, Porter sniped off and was turned over by sub loosehead Rhys Carré. The frustration continued.

Again, the Welsh threatened with 15 minutes to go and though Aki appeared to have won a big turnover penalty in the left corner, he was penalised for tackling off the ball just before. Ireland needed a huge lineout steal from Ryan five metres out.

The Welsh comeback effort was ended as soon as Williams was binned for a 64th-minute high tackle on Sexton, who stayed on the pitch until a confusing passage where referee Karl Dickson appeared to suggest he didn’t “seem fully aware of what was going on at the time.” Sexton played on, helped in a choke tackle, and was then replaced by Byrne.

Byrne made a notable impact in helping Ireland to see out their win, directing his team superbly on their way to the bonus-point score through van der Flier from close-range after a cohesive, skillful passage of team attack. That was job done.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Caelan Doris, James Ryan, James Lowe, Josh van der Flier

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [3 from 3], Ross Byrne [1 from 1]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [2 from 2]

Wales scorers:

Tries: Liam Williams

Conversions: Dan Biggar [1 from 1] 

Penalties: Dan Biggar [1 from 1]

WALES: Liam Williams (yellow card ’65); Josh Adams, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer (Alex Cuthbert ’68); Dan Biggar (Owen Williams ’67), Tomos Williams (Rhys Webb ’64); Gareth Thomas (Rhys Carré ’54), Ken Owens (captain) (Scott Baldwin ’61), Tomas Francis (Dillon Lewis ‘HT); Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (Dafydd Jenkins ’61); Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric (Tommy Reffell ’54), Taulupe Faletau.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey (Bundee Aki ’60), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain)  (Ross Byrne ’68), Conor Murray (Craig Casey ’64); Andrew Porter (Dave Kilcoyne ’73), Dan Sheehan (Rob Herring ‘), Finlay Bealham (Tom O’Toole ’60); Tadhg Beirne (Iain Henderson ’54), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony (Jack Conan ’60), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Referee: Karl Dickson [RFU].

- This article was updated at 4.57pm to correct ‘Welsh scorers’ to ‘Ireland scorers’ and vice versa.

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