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Dublin: -2°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Stockdale at the double as Schmidt's Ireland cling on for victory in Cardiff

Dave Kilcoyne was monstrous for Ireland as Joe Schmidt’s side made positive strides forward.

Wales 17

Ireland 22

Murray Kinsella reports from Principality Stadium

IRELAND AREN’T QUITE there yet, but this was a step forward for Joe Schmidt’s men.

Much fresher, much more positive and far more accurate than last time out at Twickenham, Schmidt’s much-changed team delivered a much-improved performance to beat Wales in Cardiff in their third World Cup warm-up game.

In doing so, Ireland ensured Gatland’s final game at the Principality Stadium was a defeat, something Schmidt is sure to have enjoyed after the Welsh boss’ jibes at the Irish camp this week.

hallam-amos-tackled-by-dave-kilcoyne Dave Kilcoyne was a dominant figure for Ireland. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Wales did mount a fightback in the closing 25 minutes of this contest to slightly sully a positive day for Ireland, a win on the road in Cardiff after making 12 changes to their team will be satisfying for Schmidt and co.

Ireland’s intermittent issue of poor last quarters cropped up again but there was much to like before that, with a superb scrum dominating the Welsh pack, while Jacob Stockdale ran in two first-half tries for a 15-3 break at the lead. Ireland’s lineout improved too.

Schmidt naturally would have liked more than another seven points after half-time, but many individuals stood out at Principality Stadium to put their hand up for selection in his 31-man World Cup squad and perhaps even his first-choice XV.

Dave Kilcoyne was monstrous at loosehead prop, making two big linebreaks and hammering into nine massive tackles in a deeply impressive 45-minute outing before he departed with a head injury.

Encouragingly, replacement loosehead Andrew Porter – who has been converted from loose to tighthead in recent years – was also dominant, driving Schmidt’s men towards a second-half penalty try, showing he can cover both sides.

With Cian Healy still to return from an ankle injury, the loosehead stocks look strong, although Jack McGrath now looks likely to miss out on Japan.

James Ryan, making his first appearance of the season like Kilcoyne, was superb and underlined just how important a player he is for Ireland, with his incessant linespeed and physicality standing out.

will-addison-is-tackled-by-jarrod-evans Will Addison looked very sharp for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

At fullback, Will Addison made his return from injury in impressive fashion, mixing some strong aerial takes with his probing running game and clever touches with ball in hand. The versatile Ulster man made a strong case for going to the World Cup before being forced off with a cut to the head.

Andrew Conway, who started on the right wing, shifted to fullback as a result and it was an excellent performance from the Munster man too. His energetic and hard-working running game was prominent and he teed up a first-half try for Jacob Stockdale.

As for Stockdale, Schmidt’s decision to start him again this weekend paid dividends as he scored two tries and boosted his confidence before being replaced at half-time, while captain Rory Best and tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong had valuable 28-minute stints off the bench as they look to find full match fitness.

At number eight, Jack Conan was lively and impactful, as skipper-for-the-day Peter O’Mahony impressed at openside in a balanced-looking Irish back row.

Tying everything together, man of the match Jack Carty delivered a tidy and creative performance at out-half, benefitting from having Connacht team-mates Kieran Marmion and Aki either side of him, with his intelligent and varied attacking play allowing Ireland to attack from deep.

The Welsh effort was disappointing for the first 55 minutes or so and the quality of opposition was certainly nowhere near what Ireland encountered at Twickenham a week ago, but this performance and win will lift spirits and belief in Schmidt’s squad.

Importantly, it also highlights that there is real competition for places in his group. 

jack-carty Jack Carty watches on as Ireland's scrum dominates. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland made a strong start under the closed roof, with a choke tackle turnover from Conan and Iain Henderson setting the defensive tone early on, while Kilcoyne and O’Mahony showed physicality in some of Ireland’s opening carries.

A sharp lineout play led to the visitors first three points, Wales captain Josh Navidi pinged for going off his feet at the breakdown and Carty calmly slotting the ninth-minute penalty.

Gatland’s men showed some quality in response, as a Jarrod Evans cross-kick to Owen Lane stretched Ireland, but Addison tackled him strongly in a one-on-one just before O’Mahony was penalised for not rolling away and Evans levelled the game at 3-3.

Addison was instrumental in Ireland’s opening try, too, as he showed composure under the high ball near the halfway line to gather a Welsh box kick.

The barnstorming Kilcoyne then made a huge bust of the Welsh defence on a direct carry through them, before Carty darted for a half-break and offloaded inside to the support-running Conway, who took off on a clever slaloming line from right to left, before firing a pass out to Stockdale for the left wing to finish a superb team score.

Carty converted and, after a bad Evans penalty miss, Ireland soon had a second try as Stockdale showed his poaching instincts to pounce on a loose Aaron Shingler offload just inside the Welsh half. 

jacob-stockdale-celebrates-his-try Stockdale, sporting a fresh haircut, scored two first-half tries. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Ulsterman nudged the bobbling ball ahead with his consistently-impactful left foot, gathering it up as he moved towards top speed and beat the despairing Lane and Hallam Amos to score his second.

Ireland were flowing with confidence now and their attack – with the creative Carty and Addison prompting – looked punchy and fluid, while Kilcoyne and James Ryan continued to set an eye-wateringly physical standard in defence.

Kilcoyne made a second linebreak after Tadhg Beirne snaffled scraps on the deck, but it came to nothing, while Carty was wide with a last-minute penalty after a huge scrum effort from the Irish pack.

A 15-3 lead at the break was pleasing for Schmidt, however, and he would have felt delight at the scrum dominance picking up even further in the third quarter, even after Porter came on at loosehead as Kilcoyne made way with a head injury.

Porter applied huge pressure to Wales replacement tighthead Leon Brown, resulting in referee Romain Poite binning him just 11 minutes into the second half, with the series of penalty wins continuing even after that.

Ireland missed chances off the back of those scrums – Chris Farrell knocking on and then Carty unlucky to have a floated pass to Conway ruled forward – before Poite finally headed under the posts for a penalty try on the fifth consecutive Welsh scrum infringement.

andrew-conway-makes-a-break Andrew Conway was lively for Schmidt's side. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Just on the pitch off the bench, Best and Furlong would have taken pleasure in that penalty try too, but Porter’s impact was immense.

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Best made a big turnover on the Irish tryline soon after as Wales attempted to finally muster a response, but Gatland’s men kept the pressure on until some sharp handling spread the ball right to Lane, who stepped inside Carty and sub scrum-half Luke McGrath to finish for a try on his debut.

Rhys Patchell, on at out-half at half-time, converted from out wide for 22-10 and suddenly Wales had momentum. 

Replacement hooker Elliot Dee looked certain to score from a close-range maul as he darted down the blindside but stand-in wing Garry Ringrose – on for Addison – made a wonderful try-saving tackle and Dee knocked-on as he attempted to stretch out and dot down.

Ringrose had a possible try chalked off in the 72nd minute as the TMO review showed that Bundee Aki had tackled James Davies in the air, with plenty of Welsh boos directed the Ireland centre’s way. 

The Welsh continued to fight back and the impressive Patchell darted over for their second try with five minutes remaining, converting himself to make it a five-point game.

The Cardiff crowd came to life in the closing minute, urging Gatland’s side to complete a comeback with Ireland out on their feet, but Schmidt’s side clung on.

Wales scorers:

Tries: Owen Lane, Rhys Patchell

Conversions: Rhys Patchell [2 from 2]

PenaltiesJarrod Evans [1 from 2]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Jacob Stockdale [2], Penalty Try

Conversions: Jack Carty [1 from 2]

PenaltiesJack Carty [1 from 2]

WALES: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Scott Williams, Owen Watkin, Steff Evans (Jonah Holmes ’52); Jarrod Evans (Rhys Patchell ‘HT), Aled Davies (Tomos Williams ’47); Rhys Carré (Rob Evans ‘HT), Ryan Elias (Elliot Dee ’63), Samson Lee (Leon Brown ‘HT (yellow card ’52)); Adam Beard, Bradley Davies (Jake Ball ’47); Aaron Shingler (Aaron Wainright ’63), James Davies (Samson Lee ’52 to ’62), Josh Navidi (captain).

IRELAND: Will Addison (Blood – Garry Ringrose ’43 to ’52, permanent ’58)); Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale (Dave Kearney ‘HT); Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (Luke McGrath ’60); Dave Kilcoyne (HIA – Andrew Porter ’45), Niall Scannell (Rory Best ’52), John Ryan (Tadhg Furlong ’52); James Ryan (Devin Toner ’52), Iain Henderson; Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Jordi Murphy ’60), Jack Conan.

Referee: Romain Poite [France]. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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