Six Nations: Wales secure historic Grand Slam with emphatic rout of woeful Ireland

Wales 25-7 Ireland: This was the hosts' third Grand Slam under head coach Warren Gatland and sees the side move up to No 2 in the world rankings ahead of the World Cup

Alex Bywater
Principality Stadium
Sunday 17 March 2019 09:47
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Six Nations: Warren Gatland hails Wales' Grand Slam win

This was rugby heaven for those of a Welsh persuasion as Warren Gatland’s side blew Ireland away to seal Grand Slam glory in their head coach’s final Six Nations game.

A request from the visitors meant the Principality Stadium roof was open for a Cardiff humdinger, but it surely would have been in danger such was the outpouring of noise here at the final whistle.

Victory means Wales’ current numbers are impressive. They have won their last 14 matches and are ranked second in the world behind only New Zealand. Gatland is now the only head coach to have won three Grand Slams in the Six Nations era. This was his team’s first since 2012.

They have deserved it too. In the Cardiff cauldron a clinical Wales led 16-0 at the break.

Hadleigh Parkes’ try and the boot of Gareth Anscombe did the damage as the home forwards – led by captain Alun Wyn Jones who was a man possessed – left Ireland stuck in reverse.

In the second half Wales rubbed salt in Irish wounds. Anscombe kicked mercilessly from the tee as Jones, Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi led the home advance.

It was remarkable stuff as Ireland ended the game disconsolate. Wales, meanwhile, are on top of the world and on the evidence of this display they have now to be considered genuine World Cup contenders. Man-of-the-match Anscombe ended with 20 points and even a Jordan Larmour score with the game’s final play couldn’t derail the Welsh juggernaut.

Backed by a wall of red noise before kick-off, Wales couldn’t have wished for a better start. From the kick-off George North tackled Jacob Stockdale into touch to give his team a fine platform.

Hadleigh Parkes scored Wales’ first try in less than 70 seconds and they never looked back

From the resulting line-out Wales earned a penalty and Anscombe chanced his arm by chipping ahead with the outside of his right boot for Parkes to collect with less than 90 seconds on the clock.

Anscombe converted as Hymns and Arias reverberated around the Principality.

Parkes then produced the goods at the other end of the field as he delivered a try-saving tackle on Stockdale as he raced clear down the left wing following a quick penalty and Johnny Sexton kick.

Wales’ momentum was temporarily stalled by an injury to North who left the field clutching his wrist. It forced Gatland into a backline reshuffle. Dan Biggar replaced North with Liam Williams switching to the wing and Anscombe to full-back. Ireland hadn’t got going and they had to rely on a trademark Tadhg Beirne turnover close to their own line to stop a second Welsh effort.

Rob Kearney tries and fails to break through the Welsh defence

Anscombe continued his fine start by then nailing a monster penalty from wide out.

Heavy rain and gale force winds had been predicted pre-match, but the reality was more of a light drizzle and in difficult conditions Wales’ forwards were up for the battle.

Ireland turned down three points to kick to the corner, but superb home maul defence led by Justin Tipuric held up the men in green. Ireland’s first-half misery was summed up by No 8 CJ Stander attempting to take a quick tap and spilling the ball and after Adam Beard stole an Irish line-out, Anscombe struck two more penalties – the second with the last kick of the half – to leave Wales in total control.

Ireland’s paucity had been striking and they were being stuffed at scrum time. Still, Wales’ excellence was equally notable as they delivered under pressure on the biggest of stages.

Johnny Sexton’s emotions get the better of him

A rattled Sexton was clearly frustrated with the refereeing of Angus Gardner, but he kicked out on the full on the game’s resumption. Ireland simply didn’t do the basics well enough.

Cian Healy then entered a ruck from the side to make things worse, Anscombe booted the penalty, and Sexton kicked the restart dead. The wheels were now off the Ireland wagon. Gardner penalised them and again the outstanding Anscombe couldn’t miss. Ireland weren’t coming back.

The biggest of all Cardiff parties had begun. Ireland went close on several occasions, but as it has done all championship, Wales’ rear-guard – led by world-class defence coach Shaun Edwards – held firm under pressure.

Gatland unloaded his bench. A home crowd who had been nervous pre-match were now revelling in the action. Irish mistakes continued to litter the encounter.

Visiting captain Rory Best – on his 117th cap and final Six Nations game – couldn’t help stem the tide and he trudged off in dejected fashion. In the Welsh coaching box Gatland cut a serene figure, but inside he must have been jumping for joy.

Justin Tipuric and James Ryan compete for the ball at a line-out

With Wales’ supporters in dreamland, Anscombe booted a sixth penalty as the wet weather continued. The home supporters were dancing in the rain.

Williams revelled in the glory as he geed up an already delirious crowd after more relentless home defence shut out the Irish. They hardly needed any encouragement.

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau rang out for the final few redundant minutes and while Ireland replacement Larmour crossed for the game’s last act, this was a day no one in Wales will forget.

Teams

Wales: Williams; North (Biggar 9), J Davies, Parkes (Watkin 74, Adams; Anscombe, G Davies (A Davies 56); Evans (Smith 54), Owens (Dee 61), Francis (Lewis 54), Beard (Ball 71), Jones, Navidi, Tipuric, Moriarty (Wainwright 71)

Ireland: Kearney (Larmour 65); Earls, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton (Carty 73), Murray (Marmion 71); Healy (Kilcoyne 59), Best (Scannell 65), Furlong (Porter 65), Beirne (Roux 59), Ryan, O’Mahony, O’Brien (Conan 50), Stander

Scorers:

Wales:

Tries: Parkes

Con: Anscombe

Pens: Anscombe (6)

Ireland:

Try: Larmour

Con: Carty

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