Ireland scored three tries to outlast Wales 19-10 in a close-knit affair in Dublin on Saturday.
It wasn’t the most entertaining of clashes, but both Wales and Ireland’s coaches should be fairly with pleased with their sides’ excellent defensive performances in their final hit-out before heading to the World Cup.
In a defence-orientated first half the opening quarter was scoreless. The most notable piece of play – for Wales at least – was when Rhys Patchell was forced off to undergo an HIA after CJ Stander accidently slammed a knee into his head.
It will be a particularly worrying injury for Warren Gatland, since Patchell had only recently came back from two serious, long-term head knocks.
Ireland would eventually break the deadlock when Johnny Sexton put fullback Rob Kearney through a gap for a converted try.
And the hosts had Wales under pressure again in their own half of the field when Patchell’s replacement, Dan Biggar, intercepted and sped away. But four Irish defenders – Robbie Henshaw, Kearney, Keith Earls and Conor Murray – tracked back and held Biggar up over the line. In an act of great sportsmanship, Biggar stopped the referee from calling on the TMO and confirmed himself that he was indeed held up.
Not long after that, though, Wales scored a converted try and a penalty to take a 10-7 lead at the interval.
There was an upturn in scoring action after the resumption as Ireland went over twice in quick succession to reclaim the lead.
There would be no further points either way, as Ireland secured the win to give long-standing captain Rory Best and outgoing coach Joe Schmidt the perfect send-off in their last game on home soil.
Ireland – Tries: Rob Kearney, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan. Conversions: Johnny Sexton (2).
Wales – Try: Hadleigh Parkes. Conversion: Leigh Halfpenny. Penalty: Halfpenny.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Garry Ringrose.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Wyn Jones.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Liam Williams.
Photo: Irish Rugby