Ireland bounced back from a record loss against England and boosted their World Cup preparations by inflicting a rare home defeat on Wales.
The Irish – beaten 57-15 by England – won in Cardiff for the first time since August 2015 after scoring three tries, two for Jacob Stockdale and a penalty try, bringing Wales’ 11-game home winning streak stretching back to November 2017 to an end.
Wales finished strongly at Principality Stadium. Debutant wing Owen Lane and Rhys Patchell (who converted both) claimed late tries for them, but it was not enough.
Here’s the key talking points from Cardiff:
IRELAND SHOW THEIR CHARACTER
Despite making 12 changes from the team that was hammered by England last week, Ireland answered the criticism levelled at them.
They showed serious physicality, made improvements in their energy and creativity, and were effective in defence. However, by the end of the game, the Men in Green were just about hanging on with the momentum swinging in Wales’ favour.
From set piece, Ireland dominated for long spells, winning six out of seven of their line-outs and all 10 of their scrums. There were one or two errors, but it was a vast improvement from Twickenham.
It was off the set piece that Ireland looked sharp at times as they initiated some formidable attacking opportunities. But for all their possession and territory at times, should have put some more than 22 points on the scoreboard.
Once the replacements came on, Ireland looked poor, made mistakes from close range and didn’t make much of an impact physically in contrast to the Welsh replacements. That will worry Joe Schmidt but there is one more warm-up game in Dublin next week to rectify these errors. And if there is any positive to draw from the victory over Wales, it was the upbeat reaction from the 42-point defeat last Saturday.
WALES’ STRONG FINISH
It’s hard to criticise Wales considering it was a second string team – with 14 changes made to the side that beat England two weeks ago.
They lacked creativity in attack and struggled in defence for large spells of the contest. But once the replacements were introduced, they grew in confidence, showed good patience in attack and defence and built a number of positive multi-phase opportunities, which yielded two tries and nearly a third.
Elliot Dee knocked on when he should have shipped the ball out wide instead.
Patchell, in particular, made a huge influence when introduced, putting the ball in the right spaces at the right time and capping off a fine display with a late try.
If there is one negative, it was Wales’ defence in the first half. They missed a staggering 20 tackles in comparison to Ireland’s four missed tackles.
However, they improved in the second period missing just one tackle.
It was poor execution, unforced errors and mistakes in the scrum that contributed to the hosts’ lack of momentum, but next week in Dublin shouldn’t present the same problems when Warren Gatland fields a full-strength team.
If there are any positives for Gatland and Co. it was another step forward for the World Cup and he gave some peripheral players an opportunity.
It was the final audition for a lot of players with Wales and Ireland’s 31-man squads to be submitted to World Rugby on Monday morning.
For Ireland, Will Adisson made some uncharacteristic errors, and if it is a shoot-out between himself and Andrew Conway, then it will be the Munster man to make the plane.
Jack Carty, named man-of-the-match, should take the third out-half slot ahead of Ross Byrne.
Chris Farrell, in the centre, looks set to miss out after a quiet afternoon. His handling let him down on a number of occasions.
For the second scrum-half slot, it looks a tight call between Luke McGrath and Kieran Marmion. The Leinster man could edge it.
For Wales, Gatland said in the build up to the game that seven or eight places are still up for grabs before he announces his final party for Japan on Sunday.
Rhys Carre and Leon Brown won’t make the squad, while Scott Williams did himself no favours.
ALL ABOUT NEXT WEEK
A positive performance and an avoidance of injury should raise a smile for Gatland and Schmidt when they leave Cardiff on Sunday evening.
The result wasn’t hugely relevant but next week will be key with both sides are at full-strength, bidding for momentum and confidence before heading for Japan.
Gatland looked nonplussed in the box all afternoon, while his nemesis Schmidt was constantly bent forward looking into replays of footage from the Irish team analyst.
It all comes down to next week. The final warm-up game. And one that matters more than this dour fixture.
Both teams will be looking to build more cohesion and give themselves a good barometer as to where they are at.
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