Halfpenny solid in Welsh defeat

Leigh Halfpenny was the only positive force for the Welsh in the No 15 jersey as they went down 26-3 to Ireland, writes JEREMY PROOME.

The fullback battle between Halfpenny and Rob Kearney was an exciting prospect given the great form both No 15s have been in, but it turned out to be relatively quiet, given the wet conditions and style of play both teams adopted. That said, Halfpenny would have to take the title, even against the favourable Irish scoreline.

Due to Kearney not being a goal-kicker, to compare the two in that sense would be unfair, but what highlighted Halfpenny's performance was that he was superior in the defensive facets of the fullback position.

Halfpenny was tested early under the high ball and maintained his composure to take everything that was launched at him while under immense pressure, including cleaning up some unexpected grubbers from Jonathan Sexton. Kearney had the same opportunities to gather some kicks from Wales, but while he contested, he never took ownership of the catches and often leaped with little purpose. There was a moment on the 30th minute that saw Kearney and Halfpenny challenge one another, with Kearney winning possession, but that was his only real defensive moment to claim.

Even with the dire scoreline, Halfpenny still chased back excellently for a try-saving intervention in the final seconds.

The fullback battle was essentially overshadowed by the clash of the Welsh and Irish forwards, but where Kearney did show some promise was with his attacking with ball in-hand. He never made any breaks or tackle busts, but he did run at the line hard and direct to give his team the platform to attack.

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