Here’s my impressions of today’s game as it was in progress. It was a new experience pretend to be a journalist and fun. What a game to try it with? It was non-stop action. I’ve cleaned up the spellings, but almost otherwise is written as I watched the game unfold.
We had rocky start losing aerial battles twice, once on their own clearance and then from a Welsh cross field kick. They draw a penalty from the knock on as the retreating Aki picks up the ball. I was about to say stupidly, but the knock on would not have been obvious from where he stood and his reaction was immediate. Halfpenny easily scores.
Ireland regain possession from the restart and Wales immediately concede a penalty. The kick is within his range by Johnny misses it, just hitting the right post and bouncing back into Welsh hands.
The adventurous Welsh try to pass and run out of defense, however, a forward pass gives Ireland back the ball with a scrum. Ireland move the ball wide and drive deep into the twenty two.
From ruck on the five meter line Murray’s skip passes to Sexton who hurls an amazing, long, flat pass to the touchline where Stockdale is just arriving and he beats the cover to get in at the corner. The conversion is missed from the corner but it’s a great response from the Irish.
Toner shows great line speed to get an early tackle in soon after the restart. Penalty won by Stander. Poked into the 22 for a green line out.
Toner collects and a maul is set up, stalled at first, but makes a good drive. The pass from Murray is obscured by the ref and Aki knocks on. Scrum Wales on about ten meter line. Steady scrum and good clearance to touch.
There’s messy Irish play and the ball is kicked into 22 and handled well. Lost some ground. More messy play with One clever inside pass that Earls takes but its lost; Peter O'Mahony gets in to win a penalty almost immediately. Sexton misses for the third time! Worrying.
Nice Sexton kick into the Welsh 22. He's playing well from hand and foot. Some good phase building are undone by a mix up between Sexton and Kearney. Cleared into the Irish 22.
Healy, Stander and Sexton all make some breaks. It’s like Ireland has found its mojo. When it goes wide a potential Welsh high tackle is ignored by the ref. Their back row gets in to steal and they clear deep, forcing Sexton into touch.
The Welsh show their own mojo and score from the line out having drawn a penalty in the build up. Missed tackles, poor reseting, Ireland completely on the back foot. The pace Wales play at is astounding. They’ve hardly had the ball but look so polished in possession. Ireland 5-10 Wales. Schingler stood out with a great run in the build up. Davies got in for the try. Poor poor stuff from the Irish defense but when Wales get rolling they look too good for anyone.
The restart results in a knock on from Keith Earls who almost got in outside the Welsh. Unlucky and narrow margins again showing up. Solid scrum again. Cross field kick, dropped by Stockdale and some kicking tennis ends up on Irish ten meter line with a Welsh possession but they mess it up with a dummy throw. Free kick Ireland, they decide to scrum - an unusual decision but poor field position for a kick. Twenty four minutes in and it’s flown by.
Farrell makes good ground but a clear take out by the Irish results in a long range opportunity from just inside their own half. Suggestion that the Welsh player had come up too soon and was himself offside but they never give those, do they? The kick is short. Ireland off the hook.
The Welsh run laterally from the drop out and Ireland come in numbers to win a penalty and clear to the halfway line for their own line out but ball is stolen by Alun Wyn Jones. Good defense. Box kick won by Biggar that is then dropped. Irish scrum is overturned because it's clear in the replay that it was Rob Kearney's foot that moved the ball and the decision is reversed to a penalty to the Welsh. This one is much closer in and Halfpenny makes easy work of it to extend the Welsh lead.
I’m getting worried here, we don’t respond well to being behind. And the lads do not seem to be settling. They seem comfortable enough with the ball but are scrambling, disunited, scattered when the Welsh have it.
Mojo is back as Earls makes huge ground before the forwards take over. Stockdale to Kearney. Leavy, Healy, Farrell and Stander all make great carries to bring the ball to just under the posts. The get another penalty advantage and the pick and go, Healy drives forward, is held up at the posts. Oh, the excitement is palpable. The crowd is making its presence felt.
I’d go for the scrum just under the posts but Sexton and Best decide points are more important at this stage of the game. It's 34 minutes. 8-13
My fear flipped over into excitement there, but surely there was repeat infringements on the five meter line from the Welsh. Jackson is not much of a talking referee and doesn’t give a warning.
I think the Irish back three are doing great in attack but we need tires. When they link up they seem to make breaks. Johnny Sexton is also getting multiple touches on the ball and making ground regularly. Promising.
From the restart, Ireland’s box kick from the 22 is taken by Halfpenny. Another box kick is handled well by Stockdale. Murray goes down the short side forwards take over.
Another Murray box kick and this time Stockdale beats Williams. The backs pick and go before spreading it wider. Big tackle high on the chest of Kearney stops him in his tracks. A hospital pass to Farrel Ireland, but Ireland are rucking much better now and retain possession.
They are not breaking the gain line, though. A box kick draws a penalty as the charger was offside. It looks like Murray spotted the flanker was standing too far forward and drew him into the charge down; clever.
It’s breathless stuff and hard work. The kick puts Ireland deep into the Welsh half just inside the 22.
A good line out and maul gains ten meters. Forwards pick and go and build phases. The clock is at 39. Inside pass to Healy and overall very patient Irish play. Backs make a break. Sexton takes it into contact - penalty advantage. Pick and go, pick and go with a lot more speed and accuracy. A pop and drive. Aki takes a short one and gets in for the leveling score. Great patience shown by Ireland. Aki shows amazing body strength to place the ball over the line.
Best mentions the penalty count to the referee. The referee is an idiot. Ireland head in with the lead at 15-13. Phew! What a topsy turvy half
What would you say to the lads at half time? I think the main worry is that we’ve been stripped far too many times in the tackle. The half time commentators are mentioning the welsh players holding the Irish in at rucks. It could be why we are not getting the defensive line reset fast enough. What sort of corrections would you make?
The Welsh haven’t had much of the ball but are only two points behind. I’d like to see the Irish concentrate on just getting tackles made and let the counter ruck ease off for a few phases at a time. If they try to turn over every ruck the Welsh are simply going to expose them, either close in or out wide with potential defenders stuck in the ruck.
If they can set themselves up and simple smother the Welsh, not missing any tackles, and doing the basics right, then I feel that opportunities will arise for steals. Just be patient.
I don’t know whether it’s the new mix of players but we have got to sort out the mistakes in the back line moves. The Welsh are known for their fast line speed; is the answer to set up slightly deeper, giving up that space? Or to expose it by creating some dog legs?
The forwards, apart from one lost line out are clearly keeping Ireland in it and a nose in front. They will be the difference today if they can hold firm at the scrum, keep the tackles going in accurately, and basically keep the intensity up.
A deep kick off. Wales drive a few times before they resort to a box kick. Kearney wriggles through a few tackles. Aki and Leavy both carry before Murray returns a box in behind Halfpenny. Kearney takes a misguided drop goal attempt from the halfway line but it is well, well wide. Drop out for Wales.
Earls gathers. Farrel, Stander, Ryan and Porter make drives. Lots of inside passes but not much progress. Murray box kicks, Bigger gets it but drops and Ireland pounce. Biggar was shouting for a tackle in the air, the dummy. Or a mark? Even dummier, as it was on the ten meter line. Lots of shouts from the crowd, not sure if the television cameras missed something over there or not.
Sexton puts Kearney through and Earls extends the break through. His
pass to Murray nearly goes to ground but the scrum half regathers. Closer in drive from Ryan. Pressure builds and Leavy goes in under posts for a try. My initial reaction is that the TMO will be invoked - it kind of look like there was an Ireland player in front of Leavy with no bound Welsh man. But the score is given to end a dominant phase of Irish play. Ireland 22-13 Wales.
This try was finished by the forwards, but very much made by Sexton linking up brilliantly with Kearney and Earls with support from Murray. Very exciting phase of play.
Wales get up and steal the restart with Williams collecting Biggar’s kick. Halfpenny messes it up with a knock on. The knock on is given - did Ireland deserve a penalty from the ruck after they back pedaled? Murray took a knock in that passage, but is OK. Scrum to Ireland on their own ten meter line.
Out to the wingers and up to the Welsh ten meter line. Good interplay between Leavy and Aki. Sexton kicks across field but it is inconclusive as Earls and the Evans both get hand on. It trickles back and Ireland get a line out inside 22 by forcing the Welsh defender into touch.
Toner gets up for this shortened line out. Stander and Leavy arrive and the maul makes good progress and leads to a penalty. Ireland kick to the corner. They have the line out five meters out. Ah, but it’s stolen. The Welsh forward makes a mess of it, driven back over the try line and brought to ground. Scrum Ireland. What a good position.
Reset scrum. Porter looks under pressure. Another reset. "Give me a good picture" says the referee to the front rows. How many times have I seen this sort of nonsense from Welsh packs, at club and international level? They can scrum evenly all over the park but when its their own five meter line, suddenly there’s reset after reset. Shenannigans.
Stander picks from the base of the scrum and passes to Murray. Ruck and a great drive from Sexton, right into the teeth of the red defenders. Some close-in drives lead to Healy getting on the scoreboard from a short carry. While not dramatic this was a very professional drive. 27-13 with the conversion attempt to come.
That scrum was rock steady. They got away clear but Murray didn’t fancy the long pass to the winger. What a brilliant choice - it was one of those interception moments - like the heart break last year where we lost seven when we looked like scoring at least 5, right at the game’s death.
Another touchline kick from Sexton but he doesn't get it cleanly.
Wales win another restart as Ireland knock on. Scrum. Its not over yet; we really need to sort out this restart malarkey. That should be bread and butter stuff.
Reset scrum. Ball is stolen by Sexton from a ruck and kicked forward by Earls who chases his own kick. It looked like he was taken out of it off the ball where he was in a position to touch it down, but the ref is blind to it and deaf to the crowds jeers. Ireland go out of touch from the drop out. Another badly handled kick off.
Knock on Ireland in the line out but some good pressure on the line out. It will make Wales think twice about going to the corner.
Irish subs getting ready to come on. A few good drives from the welsh end with a knock on Irish run it out. Sexton take s a knock slow to get up. advantage over.Box kick. Earls gets Halfpenny into touch but he has somehow gotten the ball away.
Farrel makes a great tackle on parks but they cant force the maul. Great battle.
Kearney loses another aerial battle as Biggar collects. Wales spread the ball out wide and Earls is caught way out of position. Ireland scramble. Wales get into the 22. A few accurate passes out to the wing and Schingler touches down at the corner.
Back foot from Ireland and they looked at sixes and sevens from the quick thinking Welsh. A long way to go with the clock clicking into 63 minutes as Halfpenny lines up the conversion - a beauty from the sidelines. 27-20.
Some substitutes come on - McFadden and McGrath in, Earls and Heally off. Both had a great day at the office. There’s a rake of Welsh substitutes on as well - North is on. Danger now.
Welsh clear the kick off and Kearney runs it back. Toner and McGrath carry before O’Mahony breaks. Crisper clear outs from Ireland but it gets starts to slow down. Eventually they resort to yet another box kick from ten meter line. The dropped ball is fly hacked direct into touch for Irish line out inside the Welsh half.
I suppose I don’t like the box kick. I feel it is used far too often by this Irish team. Yet I can’t deny that Conor Murray is an expert and Ireland frequently make ground from the attempts. It’s a part of the game, I will never learn to love it and will have to simply be contented that the kick is being executed by a master of the game.
Andrew Porter comes off for John Ryan. Not a bad run out, with decent caries and tackles; very busy and held pretty firm at the scrum. I don’t think there’s been any scrum penalties all game.
O’Mahony taking treatment. Worrying. I haven’t mentioned him for carries much but he is doing the number six’s job to perfection and very much a part of a pack that’s working as a unit, each man playing his part.
Ireland take the line out and set up a maul.
Decent progress. McFadden, Aki, and James Ryan carrying. The forwards take it on. Stander is on 19 carries the commentator informs us; what a work rate! Welsh are managing to slow it down legally somehow, every chance they get.
A break from Aki and a half break from Sexton. Jack Conan is now on and carries for another half break. Farrel has the ball ripped from his hands but the referee rightly say that it was ripped after they hit the ground. Penalty Ireland on the 22.
A quick tap and go by Sexton into the corner, which the television director missed, Ireland get up to the five meter line. The atmosphere is getting electric, I’m at home and getting goose bumps. But it ends when Ireland knock it on.
Murray looks like he got a bad leg injury. That’s the championship over for me if he goes off. He’s on his feet so maybe not as bad as it first looked. I can breath again.
That now seems a like a foolish play by Sexton. But we have the Welsh where we want them on their own five meter line. More scrum shannaigans? Eventually it gets steady. The scrum half does a clever play up the narrow side and the Welsh release the pressure.
Welsh go wide and then kick. Kearney does well but a knock on from McFadden gives back possession to the men in red. Kearney should just have gone to ground and let McFadden clear out. Sexton getting treatment as Best comes off for Cronin.
Cronin has been in fine form recently so pretty excited to see him get a solid ten minutes. Reset scrum - not sure why. "Good discipline green" a shout is overheard on the referee microphone. Steady from Welsh and then pass out wide. North beats Kearney.
Ireland look shaky at the moment but a silly knock on from Davies gives us a chance to regroup. Kearney did just enough to slow North down but he is such a dangerous player it’s scary. 72 minutes and still 27-20. If I wasn’t typing I’d be biting my nails. Even now my fingers are slightly shaking. A very enjoyable match.
Steady scrum. Murray passes to Stockdale and makes ten meters. Leavy carries. Tipuric is on and making a nuisance of himself. Box kick. Knock on advantage. Farrel makes a great tackle but there’s an Irish knock on as he tried to steal it. Welsh get a scrum half way betwen 10 and 22 of their half. Quinn Roux comes on for Toner.
Solid at first but the Irish get the shove on and win a penalty. Now that’s patience. They’ve waited and waited and got the pressure on exactly at the moment of hook and stolen the penalty.
Conor Murray is going to take the shot at goal - Sexton must just not be right today. Tough enough kick. The commentator reminds us Murray scored a penalty against the All Blacks in Chicago. What a day to remember. He grazes the post but its OK. 30-20. We have them on the ropes.
Carbery came on for Sexton just before the kick. He couldn’t take the penalty because he had not been on the pitch at the time. Sexton seemed to be nursing his hamstring.
Wales steal the ball again from the restart. I mean, really? This is bad.
Irish hold initially with good defense, but the offloading from Wales is amazing and they get in for yet another try. Jesus Christ, Ireland. Get your restarts in order. Halfpenny should slot this for a three point game. I’m feeling sick again. 30-27 on 78 minutes.
Deep restart from Carbery. Stander gives away a penalty inside their 22. Anscombe is fly half now. The have a line out on half way. I think we need a steal in the air. The ball was not straight but referee again is blind and deaf to the moans from the crowd. McFadden misses another tackle. This is looking grim.
Carbery makes a good tackle. Interception! Stockdale nicks it and is clear. Try under the posts. I’m getting another wave of endorphins. What another great half of rugby and ends the same way, with a try for the men in green. Stockdale is eight tries in seven games. What a record. Carbery adds the two points 37-27 to keep us on track for the Grand Slam. Game over.