The Grand Finale: Wales the new boss of the North
SIX NATIONS ANALYSIS: Wales certainly placed a huge target on their back with an impressive 25-7 win over Ireland.
The roles were surely reversed since last year’s Six Nations campaign.
At the start of this campaign, none would have imagined that Warren Gatland’s side could win the title – never mind a Grand Slam.
However, the side have shown they are not to be underestimated and have certainly placed themselves among the contenders for the prestigious World Cup trophy.
In contrast, Ireland’s Six Nations journey has been a crucial learning curve ahead of the Japan event in September.
It’s not just the defeat that will haunt the Irish, it’s the manner in which they lose the match. Joe Schmidt’s troops appeared tired and very unimaginative.
Keep in mind, one must be careful not to just identify their flaws and diluting Wales’ impeccable performance, who were well on their way to 25-0 win.
Wales were simply more clinical.
And undoubtedly, more eager to win.
WALES v IRELAND: Attacking stats
After just one minute Gareth Anscombe’s chip was neatly collected by Hadleigh Parkes for the first try of the match. The flyhalf proved to be the difference with his smart kicking game and accuracy from the tee. Anscombe added 20 points to his team’s score.
While the World Rugby player of the year 2018 Jonny Sexton struggled to get in the game, usually a very reliable talent, the flyhalf failed to influence the match, forcing kicks which included a kick directly to touch and a dead restart.
The stats will state that Ireland dominated possession in the end, but most of it was because Wales slacked off after building a 25-0 lead with just five minutes to play.
Gatland’s men had 61 percent of the possession at the break and had a 16-0 lead.
Aiding Wales’ amount of possession was the massive sum of nine turnovers Ireland conceded during the first half.
It did not get better for the Irish as they conceded 20 turnovers in the end.
Ireland’s horrendous afternoon was also made worse with their uncharacteristic individual errors at crucial moments. The visitor’s handling error count were well into double figures, a few which certainly stood out were Connor Murray’s knock-on inside Wales’ five-metre and a Josh Adams knock-on just metres away from the tryline.
Another facet that added to Ireland’s demise was their scrums – an area the Irish rugby prided itself on.
While Wales won nine scrums compared to Ireland’s three. It was certainly not the best farewell for captain Rory Best.
WALES v IRELAND: The rest of the stats
Once again Wales’ defence was the vital weapon. The side made 169 tackles and kept the Irish scoreless for 80 minutes before Jordan Larmour went over the chalk for to halt the whitewash.
Josh Navidi (20) and Alun Wyn Jones (16) lead the charts in terms of the tackle count, while James Ryan with a mere nine tackles made was Ireland’s leader.
Ireland made more carries (117) and more running metres (459) during the 80 minutes, however, failed to overturn into pressure and points.
In the end, Wales deserve the accolade – they recorded wins over France (24-19) followed by great victories over Italy (26-15), England (21-13) and Scotland (18-11).
The result certainly sets up an intriguing World Cup
By Leezil Hendricks