Wales beat Ireland 25-7 in Cardiff to clinch the Six Nations title and their first Grand Slam since 2012. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Wales are the 2019 Six Nations champions and they got there in style. What makes this accomplishment even more special is the fact that Warren Gatland became the first coach to win three Grand Slams in the Six Nations era.
With so much riding on it, there was every reason to expect this to be one of the games of the tournament, but in the end, it turned out to be a one-sided pummeling.
Wales have now won 14 successive Test matches and will move to No 2 in the World Rugby rankings.
As was evident in their 18-11 win against Scotland last week, Wales’ entire campaign was built on their stoic defence. They kept Ireland scoreless in the first half and limited them to a single try in the second, which came in stoppage time.
Ireland were uncharacteristically devoid of inspiration and their challenge blighted with errors.
A fired-up Wales made a blistering start to the game when they retrieved Gareth Anscombe’s pin-point kick-off. In a sublime and unexpected sequence of play, given the inclement weather conditions, Anscombe executed a beautiful chip kick with the outside of his right foot which centre Hadleigh Parkes chased down to score, with one minute and 10 seconds on the clock.
That set the tone for a breathless opening 15 minutes during which Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale took a well-timed cross-field kick-pass and made for the line, but was hauled in and halted by a phenomenal try-saving tackle from Parkes.
Wales were forced into a backline reshuffle when right wing George North suffered a wrist injury, resulting in Dan Biggar coming on at flyhalf, Anscombe moving to fullback and Liam Williams shifting to wing.
Ireland then saw off a 17-phases Welsh assault on their line thanks to a superb turnover from lock Tadhg Beirne. Moments later Anscombe knocked over a penalty to make it 10-0.
Ireland’s best chance to put points on the board came in the 24th minute, but they turned down a kickable penalty in favour of a lineout. Their gamble didn’t pay off as the Welsh forwards defused the rolling-maul threat with excellent defence to win a scrum.
Wales pushed further ahead as Anscombe landed two more penalties for a commanding 16-point advantage at the break.
Ireland’s poor discipline continued in the second half, and Anscombe made them pay with another three penalties.
Knowing their lead was unassailable, Wales set out to keep their composure on defence. For the last 15 minutes, Ireland probed in search of a consolation try but Wales defended with purpose.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Wales’ resistance finally crumbled as Jordan Larmour scored for Ireland, but it meant little in the greater scheme of things,
Wales – Try: Hadleigh Parkes. Conversion: Gareth Anscombe. Penalties: Anscombe (6).
Ireland – Try: Jordan Larmour. Conversion: Jack Carty.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Rory Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Jordan Larmour.