Ireland’s win over Wales demonstrated a gulf in class between the two sides
On a blustery February afternoon in Dublin, Ireland were singing in the rain. They danced all over Wales throughout their Six Nations opener, getting the campaign off to the best possible start. In the end, the only question was, how many would Ireland score?
Truthfully, the 29-7 final scoreline flattered Wales somewhat. Dogged by injuries and absences, the visitors just couldn’t get a foothold in the game, allowing Ireland to strut their stuff to the delight of the home support. Bundee Aki was left in acres of space to cross the line after just two minutes played, and that set the tone for an easy victory for the Irish, proving the odds on Skybet to be correct.
The only surprising thing was that Ireland only led 10-0 at half-time. Despite controlling proceedings, Andy Farrell’s side had failed to capitalise on their dominance. Conditions certainly didn’t help, as Johnny Sexton saw a collection of penalties taken wide by the wind. Indeed, Wales may have been feeling somewhat confident having weathered the physical and proverbial first-half storm.
There was to be no comeback though, as Ireland kicked on another gear in the second half. A quickfire double from Andrew Conway was added to by a Garry Ringrose try, establishing a 29-0 lead for the home side. A late try from Taine Basham spared Wales the whitewash, but it was a humiliating afternoon nonetheless from Wayne Pivac’s side.
This was a far cry from last year’s meeting between the two teams, when Wales produced a sterling second-half display in Cardiff to overcome 10-man Ireland. That result spurred them on to ultimately win the Six Nations, but thoughts of any such success this time around will have been dampened by their performance in Dublin.
There was a chasm between the two teams on the day, as Ireland tore their opponents asunder with a minimum of fuss. Indeed, Wales can count themselves fortunate that Ireland didn’t make the most of their early domination, otherwise a pummelling could have been on the cards that would have been difficult to recover from for Pivac’s men. Their squad have been ravaged by injuries, and they are lacking some of the experience they had in their ranks last year. It was a 80 minutes to say the least.
Ireland, on the other hand, will now be buoyed as they prepare for their remaining four matches. All you want to begin a Six Nations campaign is a win, but the fact they dispatched Wales so comfortably will give everyone a boost.
The sad reality for Wales is that this match demonstrated that these are two teams who will be battling it out at opposite ends of the Six Nations table this year. Ireland produced some stunning rugby in testing conditions, whilst Wales mustered barely more than a whimper.
The joy of the Six Nations is that anything can happen, and wouldn’t be too altogether surprising if Wales raised their game massively for the rest of the tournament. It’s just a shame that last year’s champions seem completely toothless this time around.