An awesome start by Ireland silenced the crowd and they raced into a 27-3 half-time lead thanks to tries from Caelan Doris, James Ryan and James Lowe and Johnny Sexton’s goal-kicking. They ran aground in the face of a Welsh fightback as Liam Williams scored, but their defence held strong and they punished a yellow card for full-back Williams as Josh van der Flier secured the bonus point win.
WALES – L Williams; J Adams, G North, J Hawkins, R Dyer (A Cuthbert 68); D Biggar (O Williams 68), T Williams (R Webb 64); G Thomas (R Carre 55), K Owens (S Baldwin 61), T Francis (D Lewis h-t); A Beard, AW Jones (D Jenkins 61); J Morgan, J Tipuric, T Faletau.
IRELAND – H Keenan; M Hansen, G Ringrose, S McCloskey (B Aki 60), J Lowe; J Sexton (R Byrne 69), C Murray (C Casey 65); A Porter (D Kilcoyne 73)), D Sheehan (R Herring 73), F Bealham (T O’Toole 60); T Beirne (I Henderson 55), J Ryan; P O’Mahony (J Conan 60), J van der Flier, C Doris.
Ref – K Dickson (RFU)
ATTACK – 7
Perhaps it’s a little churlish to give so low a mark to a team that went to Cardiff and scored four tries, but Ireland didn’t have to flex their attacking muscle for their first three.
It was accurate, ultra-physical stuff for the first two and the defence came up big with the third when Lowe picked off Dan Biggar’s pass and raced home from 75m.
After a long time defending, they showed some real teeth in the last quarter and Van der Flier’s score was possibly the best constructed attacking phase. Things looked at their smoothest when Ross Byrne was on the pitch and the wingers got more involved.
DEFENCE – 9
It was clear from the reaction in the coaching box that this was the area that most pleased Andy Farrell, who punched the air with delight at several phases.
They won’t be happy with their discipline, which continuously gave Wales access to their territory but when the home side did get into the 22 they were largely shut down.
Hugo Keenan denied Rio Dyer, while Garry Ringrose, Andrew Porter, Doris, Bundee Aki, Lowe and Sexton made big defensive interventions and James Ryan’s work in the air was key.
BENCH IMPACT – 8
The Welsh resurgence shifted the mood in the stadium and another try might have just set up a historic comeback.
On came Bundee Aki, Iain Henderson and Jack Conan to steady the ship. Craig Casey (left) sharpened the service, while Byrne’s measured performance got them flowing again. He justified his selection with his pin-point accuracy as he ran the backline in style. Tom O’Toole brought physicality, while Dave Kilcoyne and Rob Herring made an impact during their short stints.
SET-PIECE – 8
Yes, there was a scrum penalty against Porter but considering the absence of Tadhg Furlong this was an excellent day at the office.
The scrum came up with a couple of penalties of its own and provided a solid platform for the backs to play off, while the lineout was superb.
Dan Sheehan is statistically the most accurate thrower in Six Nations history and, while he’s bound to have a bad day at some stage, he was excellent out of touch on Saturday.
Ryan (left) competed hard at the right moments and caused havoc for the Welsh.
Andy Farrell: The Ireland coach is at the top of his game right now.
Hugo Keenan: We knew he was good, but this good? An outstanding performance.
Dan Sheehan: World class in every area. Ridiculous acceleration.
Warren Gatland: The true scale of the task was reflected in the haunted look on his face.
6 – Penalties conceded by Ireland prop Andrew Porter.
4 – Starts for Ireland for tighthead Finlay Bealham prior to Saturday. But he thrived on the big stage.
118 – Number of seconds it took for Ireland to score their first try, with Caelan Doris going over within two minutes of kick-off.
19 – Doris topped Ireland’s tackle count on an industrious afternoon.
3.4 – Ireland’s return of 3.4 points per visit to Wales’ 22 was a mark of their superiority. The Welsh managed 0.9 points per visit.