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Ireland keep Grand Slam dream intact

MATCH REPORT: Ireland kept their Grand Slam dream alive with a 31-7 win over Wales in Dublin on Saturday.

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The Irish need two wins to secure unprecedented back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams after a somewhat nervy performance at Lansdowne Road.

The Irish scored four tries to secure a bonus-point win over Warren Gatland’s side.

The result means that Ireland remain at the top of the Six Nations table with three wins, while Wales suffered their third defeat in three games.

Ireland go to Twickenham to play England in a fortnight with Wales looking for their first win in this year’s tournament at home to France.

Prior to kick-off, there was an emotional moment as Tadhg Furlong cried during the national anthems, it being the first Test for him at Lansdowne Road since his father died late last year.

Ireland started well and their early dominance yielded a penalty which Crowley converted in the seventh minute.

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The Irish came up trumps early in turning the ball over twice in rucks – Bundee Aki and Andrew Porter earning the slaps on the backs from their teammates.

The home scrum had the Welsh one under all sorts of pressure and the hosts secured their first try of the encounter on the back of a penalty conceded by the visiting pack.

Crowley kicked for touch and from the ensuing line-out hooker Dan Sheehan touched down for his fourth try of this year’s tournament.

Crowley converted from the touchline for 10-0 and the Welsh looked like they were staring at a very tough day at the office, although Ireland coach Andy Farrell cut a pensive figure in the coaches box.

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He had reason to be as despite their territorial dominance Ireland were producing some scrappy errors.

However, Wales could not get outside their half, constant Irish pressure forcing them to give away penalties at will.

The Irish got on with the job and scored a second try as the Welsh defence cracked, James Lowe went over in the far right corner for his 14th try.

Crowley converted for 17-0.

That was that for the first half as the Welsh failed to score in a half for the third time in this year’s tournament.

Even more worrying for the visitors was they had conceded as many penalties – nine – as they had done in the first two matches.

However, they got a huge boost at the beginning of the second half as the Welsh were awarded a penalty try and Tadhg Beirne was sin-binned for breaking his bind.

At 17-7 all of a sudden it was game on.

Tension was growing, illustrated when Andrew Porter threw Gareth Thomas’s loose boot deep into Irish territory, leaving the Welshman seething.

The Irish were now under the cosh, conceding four penalties inside the first 14 minutes of the second period.

However, Beirne redeemed himself immediately after his return as he turned the ball over with the Welsh pressing for the line.

Wales kept the pressure on but the Irish defence held firm and the outstanding Aki won a penalty to allow Ireland to clear their line.

Aki went over shortly afterwards but his joy turned to dismay as Piardi – the first Italian to referee a Six Nations match — referred it to the television match official who judged Henshaw to have knocked on during the move.

Finally, the moment came in the 67th minute for the Irish to breathe easier after making heavy weather of it as Ciaran Frawley went over to mark his first Six Nations start.

Crowley converted for 24-7.

The Welsh spirit was undimmed and they were the side puffing away at the Irish line as the game wound down – James Ryan sin-binned as the pressure told.

However, veteran prop Cian Healy saved them in forcing a turnover and the hosts perhaps undeservedly secured the bonus point at the death as Beirne went over.

Man of the match: Tommy Reffell was the standout performance for Wales, completing 21 tackles in his 80 minutes. Caelan Doris and Dan Sheehan deserve a mention for their performance for Ireland. However, our nod goes to Bundee Aki. The Ireland centre was a beast making 10 carries, a couple of line breaks and even winning a turnover.

The scorer:

For Ireland:
Tries: Sheehan, Louw, Frawley, Beirne
Cons: Crowley 4
Pen: Crowley

For Wales:
Try: Penalty try
Con: Penalty try does require a conversion

Yellow cards: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland, 44 – collapsing the maul), James Ryan (Ireland, 75 – multiple infringements and not 10 metres)

Teams: 

Ireland: 15 Ciaran Frawley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Oli Jager, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jack Conan, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Stuart McCloskey.

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams; 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Alex Mann; 5 Adam Beard, 4 Dafydd Jenkins (captain); 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Elliot Dee, 1Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

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