Wales 10–34 Ireland
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Ireland got their 2023 Six Nations campaign off to a dream start yesterday, beating Wales at the Principality Stadium for the first time in 10 years. The defeat marks a poor start for Welsh boss Warren Gatland, who has just entered his second term in the position
Ireland went into the fixture as firm favourites, and performed near flawlessly for most of the 80 minutes.
The first try came in just two minutes. Leinster’s Caelan Doris touched down after an impressive sequence of phases from the Irish pack.
While Wales attempted to counter, Ireland’s defence was simply too strong, and a counter-attack sent James Ryan over the line for a second try after only eight minutes.
Wales were not without chances, but they lacked the clinical efficiency on display from Ireland. Their best opportunity came after a spill from Jonathan Sexton put Rio Dyer within inches of the line, but Hugo Keenan was able to salvage the ball just before the Welsh winger could go down for the try.
The final try of the half came from the returning James Lowe. A cheeky interception during one of Wales’ more promising attacks saw the winger cover nearly the length of the pitch and touch down his seventh international try.
A final penalty from Sexton put Ireland up 27–3 at the break.
After what must have been a withering half-time talk from Gatland, Wales burst out of the gates in the second half. Cardiff’s Liam Williams finished an excellent run of play to touch down for the home side’s first try.
The second half saw Ireland’s tempo slow somewhat. Wales was better able to keep up, and some indiscipline crept into the ranks, with the majority of Ireland’s penalties being given away in the final quarter.
The scoring dried up during the second half, but Ireland maintained their position and sealed their bonus point with an excellent 71st minute try from Leinster’s Josh van der Flier.
A final cross-field kick from Johnny Sexton almost sent in Mack Hansen, but the winger was dragged over the line by Scott Baldwin to end proceedings
Hugo Keenan was awarded Player of the Match, a result that is hard to argue with.
Ireland couldn’t have asked for more from their opening foray. Their ruck, line and ball speed can only be described as blistering, and the confidence in the squad is undeniable. The real test comes next week at home to France, but considering their form, they are more than a match for Les Bleus.
Elsewhere, Scotland secured the Calcutta Cup, beating England 29–23, while France scraped a win against stiff Italian opposition in Rome with a scoreline of 24–29.
Wales: (1) Gareth Thomas, (2) Ken Owens, (3) Tomas Francis, (4) Adam Beard, (5) Alun Wyn Jones, (6) Jac Morgan, (7) Justin Tipuric, (8) Taulupe Faletau, (9) Tomos Williams, (10) Dan Biggar, (11) Rio Dyer, (12) Joe Hawkins, (13) George North, (14) Josh Adams, (15) Liam Williams. Replacements: (16) Scott Baldwin, (17) Rhys Carré, (18) Dillon Lewis, (19) Dafydd Jenkins, (20) Tommy Reffell, (21) Rhys Webb, (22) Owen Williams, (23) Alex Cuthbert.
Ireland: (1) Andrew Porter, (2) Dan Sheehan, (3) Finlay Bealham, (4) Tadgh Beirne, (5) James Ryan, (6) Peter O’Mahoney, (7) Josh van der Flier, (8) Caelan Doris, (9) Connor Murray, (10) Johnny Sexton, (11) James Lowe, (12) Stuart McCloskey, (13) Garry Ringrose, (14) Mack Hansen, (15) Hugo Keenan. Replacements: (16) Rob Herring, (17) Dave Kilcoyne, (18) Tom O’Toole, (19) Iain Henderson, (20) Jack Conan, (21) Craig Casey, (22) Ross Byrne, (23) Bundee Aki.