If you missed the game on Sunday, here’s all the tries and kicks from Ireland’s 23-21 loss to Wales, including Leigh Halfpenny’s match-winning penalty in the last minute:
The first try (2.00) is fine example of how passive and reactive the Irish defence was on Sunday. All afternoon, Ireland seemed happy to let Wales run at them. It was rare for the Irish to get up hard off the defensive line and make dominant hits. Wales smartly went back down the blindside where Ireland had basically left themselves with a 5 v 2 to defend. Mike Ross and Tommy Bowe were in an awful defensive situation, but ultimately they made no real decision, just let Wales come at them.
Their first steps were sideways and then backwards, allowing Priestland to use his pace to get outside Ross, and get his hands through the despairing tackle for the offload. Watching the clip, the most surprising thing is that Ross and Bowe aren’t screaming for some their teammates to get across to the blindside. Pause the clip at 2.27 and you see how bad a position Ireland left themselves in. Only then do Gordon D’Arcy and Rory Best try to get to the blindside, too late. That lack of urgency affected Ireland badly on Sunday.
Rory Best’s try (4.09) came after Ireland had put together some quick phases and attacked Wales around the fringes with quickly recycled ball, a rare commodity on Sunday. Good hands then allowed Ireland take advantage of a slip-up by Wales. Pause the video at 4.43 and you will see that Priestland has made a bad decision to bite in on D’Arcy, which allows the Irish centre to put Bowe away on Priestland’s outside shoulder.
Wing Alex Cuthbert is left in no man’s land and decides to grab Bowe, but the Ospreys wing has his hands free to send Best over. A good try from an Irish point of view, but one Wales will be unhappy with. Ireland were clinical that time and it shows that they can be an effective attacking force.
The next try was Davies’ second, made by George North (7.18). Wales run a simple spot behind Jamie Roberts to North, in off his wing. The pass goes early enough to allow D’Arcy to step up on North. Pause the clip at 2.23, just after North gets the ball. There’s D’Arcy in front of him, and that is the Ireland centre’s tackle to make. McFadden must concern himself with his opposite number, Davies, who is holding his width.
However, McFadden makes the decision to step in on North. He gets completely bounced off, but he shouldn’t have had to even make that decision. Whether it was lack of communication from D’Arcy, or McFadden’s lack of confidence in D’Arcy, he decided he had to help his midfield partner stop North’s run. As you can see, D’Arcy completely slips off North, not even slowing him down. McFadden still should have done better with his hit. North’s beautiful offload did the rest.
Bowe’s try (9.37) came with Wales down to 14 men and Ireland dominating possession. After battering the Welsh tryline with forward runners, Sexton showed intelligence to move the ball wide. Kearney’s pass was perfect and gave Bowe the space to dive over. From that point, Ireland should have been able to finish Wales off with Bradley Davies still in the bin. But it was Warren Gatland’s side who scored next.
To concede the North try (11.53) with an extra man on the field simply highlighted Ireland’s lack of urgency. It was a shock to see Paul O’Connell miss a tackle on Ian Evans in the build-up. That got Wales in behind the Irish defense and gave their backs lovely front-foot ball to run on to. It’s hard to stop this Welsh back division with that kind of ball, but Ireland managed to get three defenders out to North in the corner.
The manner in which North bounced over exemplified how Wales won the physical battle on Sunday. Watching the tries Ireland conceded, it’s clear that they will need to increase the aggression and urgency of their defence for Saturday’s date in Paris. Julien Malzieu, Louis Picamoles and Aurelien Rougerie will offer plenty more of what Wales served up.
Photos courtesy: Joslyn Layne, Liam Coughlan.