Wales do the Slam as Schmidt's shambolic Ireland end Six Nations on dire note

Warren Gatland’s side were superb as they claimed a third Grand Slam under the Kiwi head coach.

Wales 25

Ireland 7

Murray Kinsella reports from Principality Stadium

THE EPIC RENDITION of ‘Land of My Fathers’ with the rain teeming down, the inspirational Alun Wyn Jones belting out each word, gave us a sense of what was coming.

The try that followed just minutes later hammered the point home – Warren Gatland’s Wales were not going to miss this opportunity to secure their third Grand Slam in the Kiwi’s tenure as head coach.

The Welsh were superb and totally deserving of their comprehensive win but, equally, Ireland concluded the 2019 Six Nations on a worrying note as they delivered a shambolic performance, perhaps the worst of the Joe Schmidt era.

Hadleigh Parkes celebrates scoring a try with Jonathan Davies Wales are Grand Slam champions. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

Schmidt’s insistence on keeping the roof at the Principality Stadium open utterly backfired as Ireland struggled to hold onto the ball and Wales thrived in the conditions, while the Irish decision-making and basic skill execution were dire.

The manner in which Ireland’s discipline – so often a strong point under Schmidt – unravelled was as telling as anything, the visitors giving up 11 penalties to allow man of the match Gareth Anscombe to keep the scoreboard consistently ticking over for Wales.

With Johnny Sexton delivering a very poor performance and his halfback partner Conor Murray also making damaging errors, Ireland were wholly lacking control in this contest. Schmidt’s refusal to sub them off until the closing 10 minutes was mystifying. 

Tadhg Beirne, making his Six Nations debut, showed his quality with one turnover in the first half but really this was all one-way traffic in the superb Wales’ favour as Ireland raised real questions about their World Cup credentials.

This was Schmidt’s final Six Nations game as Ireland head coach – as was the case for Gatland – but he now has huge concerns as he attempts to guide his team beyond the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time ever.

2018, with its Grand Slam and a win over the All Blacks, seem like a long, long time ago.

For Wales, whose Slam was built on an incredibly good defence driven by Shaun Edwards, their prospects at the global tournament are looking pretty rosy right now.

Hadleigh Parkes celebrates scoring their first try with Jonathan Davies Hadleigh Parkes scored an early try for Wales. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Wales’ start was sensational as Gatland’s men drove Jacob Stockdale into touch from the kick-off, then scored with their first attack as Hadleigh Parkes gathered in a delightful Anscombe chip over the Irish defence to dot down with just 61 seconds on the clock.

Anscombe converted and Ireland struggled to hang onto the ball in the wet conditions, while also conceding harmful early penalties, although Parkes did need to make a vital try-saving tackle on Stockdale after quick thinking by Sexton to cross-field kick.

The Welsh lost George North to injury inside the opening 10 minutes but Dan Biggar came on to great effect at out-half, with Anscombe shifting to fullback and Liam Williams moving to the wing.

A brilliant Beirne breakdown turnover penalty just in front of the Ireland tryline spared Schmidt’s side as Wales piled on more pressure, but Sexton went off his feet at an attacking ruck soon after, Anscombe slotting an impressive penalty from wide right.

The Welsh should have then gone 13-0 ahead but Gareth Davies’ tackle on Bundee Aki after the whistle had sounded saw another penalty reversed.

Ireland were let off the hook and finally enjoyed an occupation of the Welsh 22 as the game entered the second quarter, only for the home side’s defence to muscle up superbly and turn over a five-metre Irish maul, Adam Beard leading the way.

Bundee Aki with Hadleigh Parkes The rain came down heavily in Cardiff. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Then another Irish error in a half strewn with them, CJ Stander attempting to quick tap a free-kick but nudging the ball into the Irish scrum in front of him for accidental offside, saw Ireland forced back onto the defensive.

The lineout began to come apart with some poor throwing by captain Rory Best – on his final Six Nations appearance – and questionable calling from James Ryan, while Murray knocked the ball-on and then box-kicked into touch on the full to give the Welsh one final shot of the half.

It appeared they had missed that chance when Josh Navidi forward passed to Ross Moriarty but, with everything going wrong for Ireland, the big-screen replay showed that Ryan had knocked the ball on first.

Referee Angus Gardner reversed his decision and Ireland conceded another penalty – their eighth of the half – at the scrum to allow Anscombe to kick Wales out to 16-0 on the stroke of half-time.

Ireland’s start to the second half was poor as Ryan was choke-tackled by Jones, Navidi and Beard but good scrum pressure then forced a knock-on from Wales number eight Moriarty at the base.

Handed that set-piece opportunity, Ireland ran down a blind alley and then Sexton kicked into touch on the full to invite the Welsh back into the visitors’ half.

Gareth Anscombe kicks a conversion Gareth Anscombe slots a kick at goal. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Anscombe was able to further extend the Welsh lead in the 49th minute as Cian Healy was pinged for coming in the side of a ruck 36 metres out, resulting in a 19-0 deficit.

Sexton then proceeded to kick a poorly-struck restart dead as the performance unravelled even further, Stander failing to roll away from a tackle as Tipuric cleverly pinned him in and Anscombe kicking the Welsh out to 22-0.

Sexton’s struggles continued when Ireland had their next visit into the Welsh 22, his pass going to ground and into touch as Schmidt’s side pressured the home team.

Ireland got a break as Tipuric spilt the subsequent lineout, however, and Murray was just stopped just short the tryline. More Irish possession followed but Tipuric jackaled to force the ball loose and Beirne knocked-on in the ensuing scramble.

Soon Ireland were back on their own tryline, as Murray’s pass from a lineout went to ground and Parkes hacked the ball ahead, the retreating Keith Earls forced to carry it back over his own tryline and hand the Welsh a five-metre scrum.

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Wales couldn’t turn that into a score but replacement tighthead Andrew Porter went off his feet at an Irish ruck minutes later and Anscombe continued his 100% record off the tee for 25-0.

Jonathan Sexton Sexton struggled badly for Ireland. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

Ireland did, at least, spare themselves the ignominy of failing to score any points, replacement Jordan Larmour crossing after Stockdale’s break.

But the game ended as it had started, with the Welsh crowd in full voice as they celebrated their Grand Slam.

Wales scorers:

Tries: Hadleigh Parkes

Conversions: Gareth Anscombe [1 from 1]

Penalties: Gareth Anscombe [5 from 5]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Jordan Larmour

Conversions: Jack Carty [1 from 1]

WALES: Liam Williams; George North (Dan Biggar ’9), Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes (Owen Watkin ’71), Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies (Aled Davies ’57); Rob Evans (Nicky Smith ’54), Ken Owens (Elliot Dee ’61), Tomas Francis (Dillon Lewis ’54); Adam Beard (Jake Ball ’71), Alun Wyn Jones (captain); Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty (Aaron Wainwright ’71).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Jordan Larmour ’65); Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (Jack Carty ’73), Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion ’70); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’59), Rory Best (captain) (Niall Scannell ’65), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’65); Tadhg Beirne (Quinn Roux ’59), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien (Jack Conan ’52), CJ Stander.

Referee: Angus Gardner [Australia].

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Murray Kinsella

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