VIDEO: Ireland extends Pivac's losing streak
NATIONS CUP REPORT: Wales slipped to their sixth successive defeat on Friday as Ireland ran out convincing 32-9 winners in their opening year-end Nations Cup clash at Lansdowne Road.
Ireland’s New Zealand-born Test debutant James Lowe crowned an impressive performance by scoring the home side’s final try in the dying seconds of a largely scrappy match held behind closed doors in Dublin.
Defeat will pile the pressure on Wales coach Wayne Pivac, who replaced Warren Gatland after the World Cup last year with the Welsh the 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam champions.
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Although Johnny Sexton scored eight points to make him Ireland’s highest scorer against the Welsh, his 100th Test appearance ended early as he limped off clutching his hamstring.
COVID-19 had overshadowed the tournament earlier in the day with the cancellation of Sunday’s match between France and Fiji due to an outbreak of the virus in the Fijian camp.
Sexton opened the scoring with a penalty in the 11th minute.
The hosts had the Welsh under immense pressure – especially in the set scrum – but the visitors managed to keep them out with Irish lock James Ryan being penalised as he tried to force his way over.
The Irish normally pride themselves on their discipline but referee Mathieu Raynal was none too impressed and penalised them regularly.
Leigh Halfpenny took advantage of one of the Irish indiscretions to level the scores in the 18th minute.
However, the Irish finally seized a try-scoring opportunity as Quinn Roux – who had only been drafted into the starting line up on Friday after Iain Henderson was declared unfit – went over for his third try for his country.
Sexton converted for 10-3 and added another penalty shortly afterwards for 13-3 approaching half an hour of the match.
That was the last contribution from the 35-year-old playmaker as he limped off grimacing and was replaced by debutant Billy Burns, whose brother Freddie played five times for England.
Halfpenny reduced the deficit with a long-range penalty, but Burns restored the 10-point lead with one of his own after Wales prop Rhys Carre was again penalised in the scrum.
Carre was put out of his agony when Wayne Pivac hooked him with a minute remaining of the first-half ahead of a crucial five-metre scrum in the Wales 22.
The Welsh successfully came through that to trail by just 10 at the break.
Halfpenny added a penalty 10 minutes into the second half for 16-9 – the Irish having started the half in a loose fashion.
The hosts gathered themselves and parked themselves in the Welsh 22 but first Taulupe Faletau and then a turnover prevented potential tries.
They did not come away totally empty-handed as Burns added a penalty for 19-9.
The Irish lost Burns just after the hour mark when he took a knock and his replacement Conor Murray slotted over a penalty to bring a smile more of relief to the watching Sexton’s lips.
Murray added another penalty shortly afterwards as the game drifted away from the Welsh.
The coup de grace was delivered on the bell as Lowe crashed over from a close-range scrum move, Murray converting to give the Irish their 19th win in their last 20 home Tests.
Man of the match: Jake Ball brought a physicality for Wales in the second half that lacked before the break. Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Taulupe Faletau were all hard-working, with Will Rowlands the most productive of the Welsh forwards. Johnny Sexton showed his value before he left the field in the first half with a hamstring injury. Ireland’s New Zealand import James Lowe showed he is not just a dangerous runner, but also has an accomplished boot. Caelan Doris showed the depth Ireland has at loose forward. Our award goes to Ireland flank Peter O’Mahony, who produced another massive workrate – with a handful of strong carries, plenty of tackles and two crucial turnovers.
Moment of the match: Both tries in the match were scored by Ireland’s two foreign imports – South African lock Quin Roux at the end of the first quarter and New Zealand wing James Lowe in injury time. The Roux try set the tone by giving Ireland a seven-point lead at a crucial time and put Wales on the back foot. Lowe’s score was more of an emotional moment.
Villain: Nothing villainous in this game. Hard and unforgiving.
Tries: Roux, Lowe
Cons: Sexton, Murray
Pens: Sexton 2, Burns 2, Murray 2
Pens: Halfpenny 3
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Keith Earls.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rhys Carre.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 George North.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO: Romain Poite (France)