Player ratings: Come in No.1
OPINION: A late change at scrumhalf could have rattled Ireland, with Leinster tempo-man Jamison Gibson-Park a late withdrawal.
With Tadhg Furlong also out with injury, it made the traditionally daunting task of Wales in Cardiff that little bit scarier.
However, they walked away with a commanding 34-10 win.
Ian Cameron rates the Irish players!
15. Hugo Keenan – 8.5
Did brilliantly to spoil what looked like a sure try for Rio Dyer in the 12th minute. Gave away a penalty near halfway for holding on which gave the Welsh an attacking lineout which nearly lead to a try, Ireland once again repelling the men in red. Maturity beyond his years.
14. Mack Hansen – 7
Didn’t see much ball in the first half with Ireland’s pack too busy bullying the Welsh to pass it his way. Made a poor decision to bust his way over the line when it was never on in the 33rd minute. Defended well and showed some snappy handling. Failed to finish a delightful Ross Byrne crossfield kick in the final play.
13. Garry Ringrose – 7.5
The first 40 minutes saw few decent touches from the in-form Leinster captain and he absolutely melted Dan Biggar in the second half with gut buster of a midfield hit. Uncharacteristically fell off a few tackles too but tireless.
12. Stuart McCloskey – 7
Played his part in Ireland’s rip-roaring start, but will be annoyed at turning over the ball in the 17th minute with the Welsh line once again beckoning for the men in green. A solid outing on both sides of the ball being subbed off.
11. James Lowe – 8.5
A clever kick on the flank put Wales under serious pressure, a gambit which ultimately lead to Ireland’s opening try. He picked his own after a stunning read and intercept before sprinting in from 75 metres out. Showed how much his defence has improved with a soak tackle that saved a certain try a few minutes later.
10. Johnny Sexton – 8
The puppet master was dictating terms from the off and didn’t look rusty despite a month on the sidelines recovering from a facial injury. Is there a better 10 in the game right now?
9. Conor Murray – 6.5
The late change will have put a lot of pressure on the veteran’s shoulders but he appeared to handle it well. A century of caps worth of muscle memory will do that. Keep the tempo as best he could but got caught napping a few times, getting sacked on occasion and getting sucked into a number of breakdowns.
1. Andrew Porter – 9
Several bone-crunching carries set the tone for Ireland early on. Made some huge contributions defensively in what was a tour-de-force for the iron-hard loosehead. The absent Furlong tends to grab the headlines on the opposite side of the scrum but there’s little between the pair. An all-court game from Porter.
2. Dan Sheehan – 7.5
His trademark carrying featured heavily in the opening exchanges and was a real threat for the Welsh to manage. He essentially operates as an extra back row in the loose.
3. Finlay Bealham – 6
Did more than survive the first scrum on Ireland’s line in the 13th minute. The scrum started to creak as the match wore on but the Connacht man comes away with credit, even if there’s plenty of room to improve on his set-piece.
4. Tadhg Beirne – 7
Took a body knock early on but recovered well. Like all good players, he can nearly always be found at the centre of the action. The early clatter came back to haunt him and was replaced by Iain Henderson in the second half.
5. James Ryan – 9
A performance that harked back to Ryan’s phenomenal first two seasons on the circuit. The Leinster lock deservedly picked up Ireland’s second try after barging through the slipshod Welsh defence. Made a mockery of Gatland’s decision to leave him out of the Lions tour 18 months ago.
6. Peter O’Mahony – 6.5
The typically dogged performance from the 33-year-old. None of your fancy stuff but helped grease the wheels of an Ireland pack that rode roughshod over the Gatland’s forwards.
7. Josh van der Flier – 7.5
The World Player of Year was kept relatively in the first half. Carried effectively when given the opportunity. Sealed it for Ireland with his 10th international try in the 72nd minute.
8. Caelan Doris – 8.5
Crashing over with just two minutes was the perfect start for the Mayo man. A huge defensive play early in the second half could have proved crucial in stemming the Welsh fightback.
16. Rob Herring – NA
17. David Kilcoyne – NA
18. Tom O’Toole – 7
Not many scrums to get stuck into but got through plenty of work in his time on the field.
19. Iain Henderson – 5
Came away and gave away a coach-killer penalty for a needless hit on Liam Williams.
20. Jack Conan
A couple of decent cameos from the British & Irish
21. Craig Casey
Brought an increase in tempo but didn’t look at all out of his depth during the Welsh purple patch.
22. Ross Byrne – 7
A couple of decent contributions and steered Ireland home. His crossfield kick to Hansen deserved to be rewarded with a try.
23. Bundee Aki – 6.5
Ripped in when he came on, but was penalised for a questionable early tackle on George North. ‘Very, very soft’ was how Alan Quinlan described it. Still, question marks over Aki’s discipline in the tackle remain.