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Ireland leave Cardiff feeling a mix of pride, disappointment and regret

Josh van der Flier says he and the seven-man pack felt ‘comfortable’ at half-time, but errors allowed Wales win back control.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE GAME LOOKED lost after 14 minutes, yet by the half it seemed that the visitors had the winning formula filed away under Plan B.

Unfortunately for Ireland’s second mid-pandemic Six Nations hopes, normal order between matters of 15 v 14 was restored in the second half as Wales forced their way (albeit not without their own hiccups) to a 21 -16 win.

Peter O’Mahony’s early red card ultimately left Andy Farrell’s side with too much to do, but the on-field reaction to the enormous early setback was the most impressive element of the agonising loss.

Flanker Josh van der Flier was among the best performers in a Trojan seven-man pack effort. His perfect support run behind Robbie Henshaw’s break and pass to Tadhg Beirne knitted together a try that made an unlikely win seem, for a while, the likely outcome.

“We were coming out ready to try and win the game, there was no talk of holding on. We went to out-play and put pressure on them,” Van der Flier said of the third quarter that tipped the balance back Wales’ way.

“We felt comfortable leading in to half-time, so it was disappointing that few minutes after half-time we probably made a few mistakes and they were back in the game.”

He added: “We felt good in defence, I thought attack was going well. We just made a couple of errors in a row, few penalties and easy mistakes that compounded on eachother that gave them field position and they ended up getting that first try.

That wasn’t ideal. Compounding errors. It’s difficult when you’re down a man and people are maybe in different positions around the field. You can’t give good teams that kind of entry and that’s probably what we did after half-time.”

Andy Farrell and Jonathan Sexton both let their frustration at Wayne Barnes’ officiating be known. Not on the O’Mahony call, but on the Johnny Williams hit on Garry Ringrose and, in Sexton’s case, an absence of cards during the run of penalties that led to Billy Burns turning a potential firecracker finish into a damp squib with an overcooked kick to touch.

“It’s something Andy spoke about after,” says Van der Flier, “being down a man is hard. We fought hard. Made a few mistakes obviously and there are things we’d obviously want to do better.

“(We feel) pride to have represented the jersey as well as we can, but also overwhelming disappointment. We’ll have to fix a few things and aim for a win at home against France.”

The weekend’s results make that seem a taller order than first thought. Les Bleus are the new tournament favourites after England’s home loss to Scotland and today’s combatants did little to challenge that mantle.

“France looked very dangerous, they’re in great form. They’re up there with the best teams in the world, but we need a win and we’ll be looking to put in a big performance against an incredible team. It’ll be tough, but we’ll take the learnings.

“There were a lot of positives, especially how hard we worked. If we add a bit of accuracy then we’ll be in a good place to meet the French.”

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Sean Farrell

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