Starting strong and dominating the first half with an electrifying display of athleticism, Ireland took the lead to secure two tries through Back Row Caelan Doris crossing the whitewash (2 minutes in) and Lock James Ryan inside the first 10 minutes.
Wales’ Rio Dyer made a cracking effort to pull a try back for Wales in the 12th, but Ireland‘s Hugo Keenan won the foot race after the Wales Winger kicked the ball over the try line.
A frustrating start for Wales…
However, it wasn’t long until a bittersweet glimmer of hope appeared when Fly Half Dan Biggar and Ireland’s Johnny Sexton traded penalty kicks, to situate the dragons on the scoreboard for the first time in the 14th minute of the game leaving the Shamrocks 11 points up at 3-14.
The onslaught again continued as James Lowe secured a third try for Ireland after intercepting a pass from unwary Wales.
Just look at how the Winger clinched the ball away from Wales to bring the score to 3-22 to Ireland:
Laudable leg work from Lowe!
Things were looking bleak for Wales now as Sexton later followed with a second penalty kick to give Ireland a considerable 27-3 lead at halftime due to Wales’ compromised lineout that saw Ireland kick the ball out of play.
But whilst Wales edged toward a landslide defeat, it was in the second half of the match that the dragons sought to recoup their losses with Liam Williams securing an astounding try for his side within just 2 minutes of the game’s restart.
Look at how he effortlessly slides into the try zone:
The dormant dragons were back in full force.
Following on from an excellent flat pass from Biggar that almost saw Josh Adams take to the try line before losing possession of the ball, the ball was pulled back for a penalty after a late high tackle on Wales’ Fly Half to make a rare visit into Ireland’s 22!
None other than Williams soon bolted over the whitewash unchallenged.
The crowds roared as Wales made it to the five-metre line shortly after the restart, but unsuspecting Wales found the ball held up over the try line and referee Karl Dickson called for a line out, with Ireland later clearing the ball.
Adopting newfound determination, Wales continued to press against Ireland’s defences, but fell short by failing to convert any opportunities, resulting in a feeling of mutual frustration between players and fans alike at Ireland’s seemingly unbreakable line of defence.
Further disappointment came from previous try-scorer, Liam Williams, as he collided with Ireland’s Sexton in a high tackle that saw the Fullback sin-binned and appointed a yellow card toward the final quarter of the game for the illegal tackle.
15 minutes were now all that stood between the two sides, with a 17-point advantage giving Ireland the luck of the shamrock.
Whilst Wales tried to obtain ground, the dragons struggled desperately to defend inside their 22 for the majority of the final quarter until one player in particular slipped through their defences…
It was none other than Ireland’s Flanker and World Rugby Player of the Year, van der Flier who exhibited relentless dedication to the game with his conversion of fly-half Ross Byrne’s ball in the final 8 minutes.
Van Der Flier had done it- Ireland had secured their biggest Six Nations victory in Cardiff since 2001.
Ireland’s head coach Andy Farrell reflected on Ireland’s win:
“We’re delighted to get off to a good start. As we all know, it’s a tough place to start a campaign. The pleasing thing is we could have used lots of things as an excuse in the past 12 days, but our preparation has been top drawer. It’s a tough place to come historically.
“If you could give us a bonus point win here, we’d snatch your hand off. But the best thing is there’s plenty more to do and fix.
“They played pretty expansively to be fair to them. Our scramble defence was good. We kept playing to the end and could have had one or two more.”
As Round Two of the Six Nations Championship is soon set to commence, will Ireland’s resounding victory be but a glimpse into what’s to come as they take on former victors France on the weekend?
Time will tell…
As for Wales, will their match against Ireland be the shake-up they need to take on Scotland in Round 2 after their sensational 23-29 win over England?
We can’t wait to find out!
That’s all from us for now at the Full 80. Let us know in the comments how you felt about the match, we’d love to hear from you!