Player Ratings: The Grand Slam route
Despite the win and having 69 percent possession Ireland struggled to put Wales away in their Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday.
Nathaniel Cope rates the Ireland players
15 Rob Kearney
Said Dan Biggar’s cues were easier to read in the build-up to this match, however, he lost aerial duels with the Wales flyhalf in the 29th minute and in the 62nd minute – the second was in the build-up to the Aaron Shingler try. A 42nd minute attempted drop kick didn’t quite match Johnny Sexton’s heroics in Paris – not one he’ll want to see again. A nice break in the lead-up to Dan Leavy’s 44th minute try.
14 Keith Earls
Unfortunate to knock on a kick off routine after Wales’ first try. Wonderful incisive run in the 33rd minute to carve open the Wales defence. His pace was very much evident in a 58th-minute break and very unlucky not to come up with a score. Taken off as a precaution in the 64th minute with muscle cramp.
13 Chris Farrell
After playing twice in November this was his Six Nations debut, replacing the injured Robbie Henshaw. A big hit on Leigh Halfpenny in the first 20 seconds settled his nerves and he was not found wanting in defence all day. Showed his acrobatics to leap high and claim the restart after Wales’ opening penalty. Carried forcefully, constantly punching holes – an excellent performance.
12 Bundee Aki
Accidental offside for Wales’ opening penalty. Also spilt a ball in Wales’ 22 in the 10th minute with Ireland having a good attacking platform. Penalised for blocking in the 25th minute to hand Wales’ second penalty. He didn’t let those disappointments affect him, however. He showed his power and finishing ability with a brilliant one-handed reach to score on the stroke of half-time. Solid defensively, combined well with Farrell.
11 Jacob Stockdale
Six tries in six internationals before this one. Made it seven in seven early on. Knocked on in the 23rd minute when attempting a fingertip catch, but he took a couple of high balls after that before halftime. Scored the crucial intercept try with the clock in the red. He is now the Six Nations top try scorer with four.
10 Jonathan Sexton
Warren Gatland spoke before the match that disrupting Sexton and Murray was crucial to success and this was far from a vintage performance from the Leinster man. He missed a penalty directly in front of the posts in the 5th minute when it came off the post and that set the tone from the tee, he missed four kicks in total. His running game was fine, including a sensational skip pass for Jacob Stockdale’s 6th-minute try.
9 Conor Murray
Did excellently to juggle Keith Earls pass in the leadup to the Dan Leavy try. Service to Sexton faultless. His box kicking wasn’t to his usual standard, with a few over-cooked. Stepped up to kick Ireland’s final penalty to give them the 10-point advantage they needed.
8 CJ Stander
Another solid performance from Ireland’s number eight. Gave away a 79th-minute penalty in Wales’ 22 to help them gain better field position as they chased a winning try, but thankfully for the Munster man it didn’t prove costly.
7 Dan Leavy
A constant menace in the breakdown winning a multitude of turnovers. A try scorer in the 45th minute, his third try in seven appearances. Ireland’s top tackler, with 12, a near faultless display.
6 Peter O’Mahoney
Won a penalty in the 14th minute off a turnover, one which Sexton failed to convert. One of the players who were key to Ireland winning the breakdown battle.
5 Devin Toner
Ireland’s go-to man in the lineout, but also one of his better performances in the loose.
4 James Ryan
Another singled out by Joe Schmidt in his post-match press conference. A big hit on Gareth Davies in the 16th minute illustrated his line speed and work rate. His mobility around the park meant Iain Henderson’s absence wasn’t keenly felt.
3 Andrew Porter
Replaced Tadhg Furlong after three minutes against Italy, this was his first Six Nations start. Handled his duel with Rob Evans admirably and also got through his fair share of ball carrying. An able deputy for Furlong and rightly praised by Joe Schmidt in the aftermath.
2 Rory Best
Had a couple of lineouts to the tail stolen which will annoy him, but his usual industrious self in the loose. There in support for Dan Leavy’s early second-half try.
1 Cian Healy 9
A couple of good carries in the opening 20 minutes, making himself the first receiver. Continued that throughout. One of his finest performances in an Ireland shirt. Got a 54th minute try that his performance deserved. Came off in the 65th minute for Jack McGrath. Man-of-the-match.
16 Sean Cronin
10 minutes isn’t long to make an impression, but part of a front row that won a crucial late penalty.
17 Jack McGrath
A 65th-minute substitute for Cian Healy and continued where his clubmate left off with a few carries. Loosehead an area of real strength for Ireland.
18 John Ryan
A 67th-minute substitute for Andrew Porter. Won a scrum penalty in the 75th minute, to help stretch Ireland’s lead to 10 points.
19 Quinn Roux
Replaced Toner, nothing of note in the debit or credit ledger.
20 Jack Conan
Replaced O’Mahony and did nothing wrong
21 Kieran Marmion
Left on the bench and probably best too as his game management was poor in the closing stages against Italy.
22 Joey Carbery
Replaced Sexton with three minutes to go. Kicked the final conversion.
23 Fergus McFadden
A 65th-minute sub for the Keith Earls. Absent for Steff Evans’ try.
By Nathaniel Cope, Rugbypass