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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 16 May 2021


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Ireland has called and, once again, we’re answering. Feel free to vent in the comments section below as Declan Kidney’s men take on Wales in their first Six Nations game of the campaign.

Find us on Facebook, contact, or tweet us @thescore_ie throughout.

Full-time: Ireland 21 Wales 23

Let’s do this. We’re in our seat and ready for a mouth-watering afternoon of rugby.

You know the set-up: Ireland meet Wales, the side they lost to in Wellington in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final last year. There’s no O’Driscoll. Keith Earls was withdrawn for family reasons.   And Donal Lenihan is in for Conor O’Shea in the Aviva Stadium studio.

Stand-in skipper Paulie is currently talking to RTÉ on our screens and he’s reiterating that mantra of his: one game at a time.

Well, this one isn’t a bad place to start.

George Hook pre-cooked line No 1,382: Ireland are like Pamela Anderson; when they’re good, they’re very good. But when they’re bad, they’re terrible.

I love the way the big man’s cultural references are always slightly date – “Munster are like Johnny Knoxville/the Macarena/Internet Explorer.”

But to the real business ahead. After much discussion ahead of Declan Kidney’s team selection and then Keith Earls’ departure from camp, these are your teams.

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), F McFadden (Leinster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), P O’Connell (Munster, capt), S Ferris (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), D Kearney (Leinster).

Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff); A Cuthbert (Cardiff), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); R Gill (Saracens), H Bennett (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff), I Evans (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Ospreys), A Powell (Sale), J Tipuric (Ospreys), L Williams (Cardiff), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).

What do we make of those individual battles? Are we confident out there in computerland?

Hooky says he thought we’d win on Thursday, now ‘he’s just worried’. What are you thinking?

Poll Results:

Ireland win (88)
Wales win (70)
Don't know, Tom (10)
Draw (2)

The Welsh, we’re reminded, are ‘coming out of deep freeze. They returned to the ice baths and cold rooms of Poland which served them so well in the past.

If those travelling from Britain yesterday expected a winter wonderland they’ve instead found perfect conditions for a game of rugby football. It’s cold – but that’s okay.

The teams are about to make their way to the spotless Lansdowne Rd pitch.

Michael D is meeting the players. He’s a soccer man, we know, but I reckon he could have done a job at scrum-half a few election campaigns and a knee surgery ago.

We’re five minutes from kick-off.

READER DISCRETION ADVISED: This is possibly the scariest looking dragon I’ve ever seen. Taken outside the stadium in the past hour or so….

Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Ireland 3 Wales 0 So we’re up and running. And it’s been eventful.

Ireland initially did brilliantly initially, taking possession, Conor Murray launched a nice box kick and Tommy Bowe shook Mike Philips. The home side were awarded their first penalty but when Sexton opted to go for touch rather than take the points, he failed to find the line.

Minutes later though, he made up for it somewhat by tacking on his first three points with a great penalty effort.

Desperate defending from Ireland on their try line…

TMO That originated from a line-out, Ireland were asleep and they were forced to defend on their line for phase after the phase.

Ultimately George North barrelled through, he was held up before Jones got over but we don’t know if he got it down quite yet. The replays look inconclusive to me.

Hate to say I told you so but inconclusive is the decision. They haven’t gone away though.  We’ve out first scrum of the afternoon and it’s on the Irish 5m line.

Early engagement from the Welsh after a scrum re-set and Johnny Sexton gets his hands on the ball again. Let that be a warning to the home side however.

One moment in which the concentration is less than 100% and this Welsh side will exploit it.

TMO Wales get over again. Davies touches down, after a lovely Priestland offload, for what looks like a perfect score to me.

The Aviva Stadium, which seems to have had its spirit dampened a little, finds its voice again when Wales miss their conversion attempt.

But, infuriatingly for head coach Declan Kidney in the stands, his captain Paul O’Connell hands the momentum back to the visitors. The Munster man encroached into enemy territory before the restart, despite an apparent warning from the ref.

Deary me. Rhys Priestland just arrowed a gimme of a penalty directly in front of the posts against the upright. Sean O’Brien was first to react and as he drove on, the stadium came to life again at last.

Rob Kearney later made a superb take on a high ball but Conor Murray then knocked on at the base of the scrum and the possession was coughed up again.  The Wales out half may be haunted by that one for some time, however. 20 minutes gone, and Ireland remain just two points down. It should be more.

That’s better from Ireland. The home side have a penalty but had played on through the advantage with Healy and Heaslip making good progress before Sexton took a pot at the posts, knowing it was a win-win situation.

He missed and is happy to point the posts to take another shot at it.

MISSED PENALTY Sexton shanks it wide.. and the director shouts for a shot of a pensive looking Ronan O’Gara on the bench.

We’re 30 mins into this game and there’s still just the two points in it.

This is gone fairly scrappy now at this stage… which suits Ireland, surely. The home side are trying to build some phases and establish some kind of a pattern through possession but after another unforced error we have a Wales scrum.

A couple of stats that may be useful, from the BBC: “Wales are struggling at the line-out, but Gatland’s men are dominating both possession and territory (63% and 73% respectively).”

Ryle Nugent suggest if Ireland get a score and get down the tunnel in the lead, it will be a major psychological blow to this young – but freakishly big – Wales side.

TRY Rory Best gets over thanks, largely, to great work from Tommy Bowe.

CONVERSION Ireland 10 Wales 5 Johnny Sexton finds his range; he lofts over the conversion and the Aviva Stadium crowd can’t believe their eyes.

After a long, hard half of rugby, Ireland are a minute away from the break and they’re five points up.

That try came from nothing. Ireland got men over and after some nifty handling, Bowe got on the front foot, fed Best ann the Ulster man crashed over the line.

HALF-TIME Ireland 10 Wales 5 Phew! As Coldplay sang about Ireland’s Six Nations campaigns: no one said it was easy.

At times in that half, the home side looked out-muscled, out-thought and out-classed – but they’re tucking into their Jaffa Cakes with an impressive five-point lead.

Preistland let the Irish off the hook with that missed mulligan of a kick while the TMO couldn’t quite award Wales an early try after a training-ground line-out move saw them break through.

Ireland for their part will thanks their lucky stars and hope to improve; from Bowe’s efforts at the end to Rob Kearney’s stunning, stunning kick-and-catch, they’ve showed glimpses of form.

How do you feel after that first 40 minutes?

Warburton is off we’re told. Huge blow.

As we get going again, Keith Woods has his say on the BBC:

“This is a cracker, an absolutely brilliant game. There’s been huge energy from the very start when Wales were under pressure, then they just blossomed for 15-20 minutes. Great game.”

PENALTY Sexton opens up an eight-point lead for Ireland, minutes into the second half. Wales will now have to chase this one and Ireland seem to have emerged with strong words ringing in their ears.

Parish notice: I should have mentioned after half-time that Sam Warburton has been replaced – because of a dead leg  -by Justin Tipuric. James Hook is also now on the field, replacing Cuthbert on the wing.

In the meantime, Wales have been awarded a penalty…

…and Priestland sends it towards Baggot Street and wide. He’s been rusty today.

PENALTY Halfpenny takes over and makes no mistake. He nails it and put Wales back within a score. Why do Ireland always do it this way?

TRY AND CONVERSION Ireland 13 Wales 15 What a try. First phase off the line out, George North barges forward and then, showing gorgeous hands, off-loads for Davies.

He cuts inside and finishes brilliantly.

The line-out came from a Tommy Bowe fumble on the tramline. Wales are back in front again.

PENALTY Ireland 16 Wales 15 Ireland come to life or as Keys puts it: they put the memory stick back in. It all came from another wonderful Kearney take and offload. They almost broke the Welsh defence several times, particulary when Paul O’Connell seemed certain to get the ball away to men outside him.

Ultimately, when the move breaks down, the ref calls it back for a penalty and Sexton, again, sneaks it inside the post. This is a thriller alright.

Donncha O’Callaghan’s day is over. He’s been replaced by Munster team-mate Donnacha Ryan.

YELLOW CARD Bradley Davies is trotting off having earned himself a yellow card. He lifted Ryan, turned him ‘more than horizontal’ and drove him towards the ground.

The linesman, who advised the ref, completely bottled that decision; it’s a red all day long. The initiate is with Ireland now though. Strap yourself in.

TRY Ireland 21 Wales 15 Tommy Bowe gets into the corner!

Sexton misses the conversion from right out under the stand. But Ireland are six up with 10 minutes to go.

The try came when Ryan won a line-out ball, Paul O’Connell clipped off around the corner and when Sexton subsequently played a long pass out to Bowe, he wasn’t going to be stopped in the corner. The place is rocking now as we enter the final furlong.

Sexton tried for goal a metre inside his own half.. and didn’t quite make it.  Tom Court trots on for his 25th cap, in place of an exhausted Cian Healy. 74 minutes on the clock.

TMO Wales look to have gone over through man mountain George North.  Let’s wait and see.

TRY Ireland 21 Wales 20 Leigh Halfpenny misses the conversion so Ireland hang on with four minutes or so on the clock.

Ronan O’Gara is on for Sexton and he restarts. As Alan Bennett says; this is going to be dramatic.

That Wales try? Here’s the BBC desciption: “A delightful touch-finder from Priestland for a Wales throw-in inside the 22 and the men in red, bolstered by the return of Bradley Davies, spin the ball wide. Ian Evans finds a gap in the Irish defence and the lock sets his backs in motion with Roberts and Davies combining to set North free.”

The stadium is in fill voice but with a minute to go, Stephen Ferris will go to the bin and Wales have a penalty.

PENALTY Ireland 21 Wales 23 Halfpenny puts Wales in front. I think that’s the seventh time the lead has changed hands. We’re into garbage time.

FULL-TIME Ireland 21 Wales 23

So, that’s your lot. The Lansdowne roar is in fact a boo at the moment. They can’t believe that Stephen Ferris was shown the yellow card for what is perceived as a dangerous tackle on Evans. You have to say, it was. But this one hurts.

What did you think of that?

The lads in the RTÉ studio are unsurprisingly animated after that 80 minutes.

“This has been an incredibly callow performance from Ireland,” says Hook, and saves extra criticism for the back-row who says are not, as we think, the best in the world.  Kidney stands indicted as to why a team he coaches, plays like this, he adds.

Donal Lenihan says we saw nothing different to what we saw in Wellington and says if there was lessons learned in New Zealand, they were learned by the Welsh and Warren Gatland again out-coached the Irish backroom staff.

Paul O’Connell: Two mistakes – one by myself and one by Fez cost us. We put ourselves in a position to win it but we just didn’t close it out. And that’s disappointing.

So there we leave it, as Sharon Ní Bheoláin says. It’s a bitterly disappointing day for Declan Kidney and his charges. But they have to pick themselves up for the small matter of a Saturday night game in Paris in six days’ time. Ouch.

Keep your comments coming in the usual ways, we’ll have more reaction throughout  the evening.

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