Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Tom Stewart making yards.
# 10 out of 10
Barnstorming Stewart pushes Ireland to bonus point-win over Wales
Openside Mark Hernan scored early and late in the first-half to keep Ireland well clear of the Welsh threat.

Ireland 36

Wales 22

EARLY IN THE week, Ireland defence coach Kieran Campbell called on his players to make big early impacts to dampen down the Welsh fire.

He could scarcely have imagined that the defence would deliver a try with Ireland’s first touch of the game and just 1:17 on the clock.

It was that sort of night for Wales. A week on from losing at home to Italy, they ultimately proved easy pickings for the reigning Grand Slam champions, who sustained their winning run in Cork with another bonus point through tries from Dan Kelly, Lewis Finlay, Andrew Smith and a brace from openside Mark Hernan.

Last week’s breakout talent Jack Crowley added 11 points with his assured boot. This week it was hooker Tom Stewart’s turn to rise head and shoulders above, the Ulsterman relentlessly showing up to give his side a powerful carrying option and popped up in the right place to steal the odd line-out too.

It wasn’t all plain-sailing in a blustery Musgrave Park, internationals never are. The visitors ended the night with three tries to their name. Noel McNamara was forced into a late back-line change after last week’s bash brothers centre pairing of Dan Kelly and Hayden Hyde were broken through illness to Hyde. Trinity’s Luis Faria stepped into midfield in his stead.

It didn’t appear to cause much disruption Crowley’s kick-off caught the Welsh napping instantly. The ball bounced five metres from their line and into touch. From the resulting line-out Dafydd Buckland was charged down on the try-line by former St Michael’s man Hernan, and the openside grounded the score himself.

It might have gotten even messier for the visitors as Sam Costelow was blocked down by Stewart just three minutes later. But the conditions hindered Ireland’s efforts to transition smoothly towards a second rapid-fire score. Daylight on the scoreboard came after 18 minutes. Crowley settled down a scrappy portion of play and directed his pack to the corner. There they managed to rip possession away from Wales and mount their own siege before Finlay invited Kelly to charge onto a zippy pass and the powerful centre was not to be stopped from six metres out.

lewis-finlay-with-ellis-bevan Morgan Treacy / INPHO Scrum-half Lewis Finlay took the official man of the match award. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Wales’ best period of the game followed, but their spell of concerted pressure was met with robust resistance as Hernan and David McCann led en efficient defensive effort that continually forced the opposition back on their heels. Losing metres fast, Costelow attempted to chip to the corner. He found the rich GAA pedigree of Andrew Smith fielding the high ball and then pumping his knees to wriggle out of trouble and race to halfway.

Ireland coughed up a turnover once in opposition territory, but again the Welsh kicking option was poor. Fullback Oran McNulty collected the loose ball and revelled in the open field, raiding the 22 before feeding the supporting Sean O’Brien who in turn slipped a pass to Finlay who skated under the posts.

There was nothing wrong with Wales’ kicking option three minutes before the interval. Crowley’s pass was spilled by Brian Deeny 15 metres inside opposition territory and Osian Knott hacked downfield. He didn’t win the race, yet he timed his run perfectly to dot the loose ball down after Luis Faria had scrambled to keep it out of Dafydd Buckland’s grasp.

24-7 with half-time fast approaching, but there was still time for Ireland to seal their bonus point. Again the line-out provided the platform and the maul ploughed through the final yards to allow Hernan claim his second score of the day and the unerring Crowley raised the flags a fifth time to ring up a 31-7 score at the interval.

ireland-players-celebrate-mark-hernans-first-half-try Morgan Treacy / INPHO Ireland celebrate Hernan's try. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Wales were clear winner in the game’s third quarter, Costelow knocking over a an excellent long-range penalty before his pack forced a penalty try and a sin-bin for Joe McCarthy. They celebrated a third try, Knott running in his second, with 13 remaining. But by that stage, the 4,822 in Musgrave had a fifth Ireland try to cheer about.

For all the to and fro on the scorers’ list, McNamara’s men kept showing sparks to hint that they had more than enough fuel in the tank should they require it: a slick turn out of trouble from Crowley, a big hit from Kelly or a line-out steal and charge from the formidable Stewart.

The latter did just that to set Ireland’s stall for try number five, an acrobatic finish in the left corner from Smith after an unconventional long scooped pass from McCann.

10 out of 10 for improvisation and 10 out of 10 on the Six Nations table for the reigning champions.

Next up, England in Northampton.


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Tries: M Hernan (2), D Kelly, L Finlay, A Smith

Conversions: J Crowley (4/5)

Penalties: J Crowley (1/1)


Tries: O Knott (2) Penalty

Conversions: S Costelow (1/1), I Lloyd (0/1)

Penalties: S Costelow (1/1)

Ireland: Oran McNulty, Ben Moxham (Conor Rankin ’79), Dan Kelly, Luis Faria, Andrew Smith, Jack Crowley (Tim Corkery 79), Lewis Finlay (Ben Murphy ’76), Marcus Hannan (Charlie Ward ’55), Tom Stewart (John McKee ’68), Thomas Clarkson (Harry Noonan ’79), Thomas Ahern, Brian Deeny (Joe McCarthy ’40), Sean O’Brien, Mark Hernan (Cian Prendergast ’68), David McCann.

Wales: Ioan Lloyd, Daniel John (Bradley Roderick ’53), Osian Knott, Aneurin Owen, Ewan Rosser, Sam Costelow (Josh Thomas ’60), Dafydd Buckland (Ellis Bevan ’40);  Theo Bevacqua, Will Griffiths (Dom Booth ’53), Ben Warren (Harri O’Connor ’65), Jac Price (James Fender ’66), Ben Carter, Ioan Davies (Gwilym Bradley, Jac Morgan (Capt), Morgan Strong

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