If there have been fears that the load of expectation would show an excessive amount of for Eire, this was a a powerful response.
Even with out the disruption of shedding Jamison Gibson-Park and Cian Healy the day of the sport, or of being with out the big presence of Tadhg Furlong, a primary Six Nations win away to Wales since 2013, and one which was largely wrapped up by half time, ticks nearly each field you can hope for.
Andy Farrell has typically spoken of embracing the challenges that rugby can throw your approach, however even he might have been questioning what he’d introduced upon himself when two of his match-day 23 pulled up in yesterday’s captain’s run.
It left an apprehensive temper amongst Irish followers who made the journey to Cardiff. They needn’t have apprehensive.
Eire began 2023 like a practice, and from the second Caelan Doris powered his approach over for the sport’s first attempt inside two minutes, a gap win within the Guinness Six Nations barely appeared doubtful.
By half time they have been 27-3 to the great, James Ryan with a uncommon try to a breakaway rating for James Lowe, whereas Johnny Sexton additionally stored issues ticking over with a few penalties.
To Wales’ credit score, they got here firing within the second half, and whereas Farrell could also be annoyed by how his facet began to soak strain within the third quarter, their defence in their very own 22 was aggressive and on level, going after the breakdown to gradual the Welsh assault down.
Liam Williams crossed for a attempt early within the second half to provide the hosts a glimmer of hope, however regardless of quite a few 22 entries they could not get again inside two scores to make issues attention-grabbing.
Within the first half Eire’s assault was quick and crisp, with Conor Murray doing properly within the absence of Gibson-Park to maintain tempo within the assault. And whereas they struggled for that very same zip within the second half, they ultimately took benefit of their result in wrap issues up with the bonus level rating from van der Flier 10 minutes from time.
Whereas Wales confirmed large combat within the second half, the gulf between the perimeters reemerged because the second half progressed, as Eire unloaded an skilled bench which made an actual impression.
Regardless of the pre-game disruption, Eire’s focus was spectacular proper from the primary whistle, they usually crossed for the sport’s first attempt inside two minutes.
Working the ball broad in their very own half, Lowe’s kick down the touchline was chased impressively by he and Garry Ringrose, who compelled Liam Williams right into a rushed kick, permitting Eire a lineout within the Welsh 22.
And after Wales stopped the maul, they couldn’t do something in regards to the highly effective carrying, with Sheehan and Ryan each getting gainline success, earlier than Doris burst by means of to attain simply to the suitable of the posts, which Sexton transformed to settle the guests into an early 7-0 lead.
Eire have been carrying over the gainline at will, with arduous working from Ringrose, Sheehan and Porter all forcing Wales backwards and resulting in a 5 metre penalty simply two minutes later.
And after a Sheehan tap-and-go, it was Ryan who drove his approach over to attain his first Irish attempt since September 2019, that one additionally towards Wales.
When Sexton transformed, Eire have been 14-0 forward after simply 10 minutes, and midway to a bonus level win, however shortly after that they had Hugo Keenan to thank, because the full-back mopped up a possible breakaway Welsh attempt, after a free go was kicked downfield by Rio Dyer.
It wasn’t a wasted enterprise to the 22 for Wales, Dan Biggar chipping again three factors just a few phases later, however it was immediately cancelled out by Sexton, who landed a penalty from shut vary after a dominant Irish scrum.
And by the twentieth minute, the Irish lead was prolonged to 21 factors, when James Lowe picked off a Biggar go in his personal 22, and outpaced the Welsh defence to dive over and rating, Sexton’s fourth profitable kick making it 24-3.
Satirically, the attempt took place after what had been Wales’ finest spell within the sport, as they moved the ball from touchline to touchline, discovering gainline success with robust carrying and tip-on passes between the forwards. However after attempting to catch Eire down the blindside, Lowe’s learn was excellent, and even with 80 metres to cowl, he would by no means be stopped as he sprinted clear.
Two minutes later, Lowe’s defensive intervention proved to be as helpful as his attempt. After Wales compelled a scrum within the Irish 22, it regarded like that they had an overlap on Eire, however a significant Ringrose deal with was adopted up by a Lowe jackal, forcing an enormous penalty and an opportunity to get some constructive discipline place.
The Welsh self-discipline had been hopeless within the opening half-hour, and after they conceded two extra in fast succession, it introduced the rely to 8-1 in Eire’s favour, permitting Sexton a simple alternative to push the lead out to 27-3, together with his personal private tally of 12.
There was nearly a dramatic swing 5 minutes earlier than half time. Having come near scoring a fourth attempt by means of Doris, Eire have been nearly made to pay for his or her knock-on when Wales marched again up the sphere with successive penalties.
And whereas they did pressure their approach over the road, a mix of Porter and van der Flier held Jac Morgan up and prevented the grounding, Eire holding off the rally from the hosts to carry their 27-3 lead into the half-time break.
If there was any likelihood of a miracle comeback, the hosts wanted a quick begin within the second half, they usually obtained it on 45 minutes when Liam Williams dived over after a properly labored lineout transfer that noticed George North focused with a intelligent throw on the entrance.
Biggar transformed to make it 27-10, with the Irish frustration compounded by Porter, whose late dive in on the attempt scorer allowed Wales to restart with a penalty. A crooked lineout throw got here to the Irish prop’s aid.
The Principality was getting louder and louder as the house crowd lastly sensed some momentum, whereas Eire began to soak strain into their very own 22, and had Doris to thank for an enormous choke deal with which compelled a turnover near his personal line.
They have been residing on the sting, and falling on the fallacious facet of the referee. When Iain Henderson took out Liam Williams off the ball they have been again inside their 22 over again, however crucially didn’t panic, ultimately forcing a turnover with a strip within the deal with. Shortly after, Mack Hansen got here up trumps with an awesome masking deal with after Rio Dyer intercepted a crossfield kick.
Having performed with out the ball for almost all of the third quarter, a penalty on the midway line lastly gave Eire an attacking alternative, however after pinning Wales down into the nook they couldn’t make it rely, Porter caught remoted within the carry and Rhys Carre forcing a jackal penalty.
On 65 minutes, any lingering hopes of a Welsh comeback appeared to fade when Williams was yellow-carded for a excessive deal with on Sexton, the full-back making contact with the pinnacle of the Irish captain, however with a low diploma of hazard in accordance with referee Karl Dickson.
It solely appeared a matter of time earlier than Eire would choose up the bonus level, and after after the introduction of Casey introduced extra tempo again into the Irish sport, they labored their approach again up the sphere on 70 minutes, with Henderson, Aki and Tom O’Toole all contributing in some fluid phase-play, earlier than van der Flier dived over to attain unopposed beneath the posts to safe most factors for Eire, and lay down a marker for the yr forward.
Wales: Liam Williams; Josh Adams, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer; Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ken Owens (capt), Tomas Francis; Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones; Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Owen Williams, Alex Cuthbert.
Eire: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Finlay Bealham; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Bundee Aki.
Referee: Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)