Six Nations

Wales pip Ireland at the death

2012-02-05 19:04
Jonathan Davies (AP)

Dublin - Wales recorded their third successive victory over Ireland on Sunday with a last minute penalty by Leigh Halfpenny giving them a 23-21 victory in their Six Nations opener.

The Welsh scored three tries to the hosts' two with centre Jonathan Davies getting two of them while Irish wing Tommy Bowe brought up a century of Test points with his 20th try.

Jonathan Sexton got his first shot at goal in the fourth minute and showed no nerves after a poor World Cup kicking as he slotted it over for an early 3-0 lead.

The hosts were caught out down the left flank in the 14th minute, this time Davies touching down in the corner after a superb pass by Rhys Priestland as he was smothered by Tommy Bowe.

Priestland, though, failed to convert Davies's sixth Test try but the Irish were rattled.

The hosts should have gone further behind in the 19th minute but Priestland's kick in front of the posts rebounded off them and into a grateful Sean O'Brien's hands leaving the visiting flyhalf shaking his head in disbelief.

The Welsh, though, had managed to completely silence the home crowd and their gloom deepened when Sexton sent a relatively simple penalty wide of the posts just before the half hour mark.

They were on their feet though three minutes before the break as an incisive break from Bowe fatally drew right wing Alex Cuthbert in and his pass set up hooker Rory Best for his sixth test try - Sexton converted and incredibly the Irish were 10-5 ahead.

There was a further blow for the Welsh at half-time as their skipper Sam Warburton was unable to come out because of a dead leg and was replaced by 22-year-old Justin Tipuric while Cuthbert was removed as well from the fray and James Hook came on for his 60th cap.

Ireland extended their lead three minutes into the second period as Sexton landed a penalty from the left to make it 13-5 and Priestland, clearly lacking sharpness after being out with a knee injury, missed a chance to reduce it with a 49th minute attempt.

He was relieved of the kicking duties when the Irish conceded their next penalty and Halfpenny stepped up to slot it over for 13-8.

The visitors were ahead barely a minute later as from a Welsh lineout the ball moved quickly down the backline and a superb offload by George North released Davies, who needed no invitation to run it in for his second try.

Halfpenny converted for 15-13 but the Irish came storming back prompted by a brilliant catch by Rob Kearney which failed to produce a try but Sexton converted a penalty to restore the lead to Ireland, 16-15.

The Welsh were reduced to 14 men with 15 minutes remaining as Bradley Davies was yellow carded - fortunate not to see red - as off the ball he lifted replacement lock Donncha Ryan up in the air and brought him crashing down all but head first.

The hosts made them pay dearly for that as Bowe went in in the right hand corner after great Irish pressure, set up by Sexton's long pass to Kearney, who floated it out to the Ospreys star after Ryan had won the ball in the line-out.

Sexton failed to convert to leave the Irish 21-15 ahead.

However, back came the Welsh and North was rewarded for a super performance by going in in the left hand corner but Halfpenny was unable to convert to leave the Welsh trailing by a point.

But he was not to be found wanting in the final minute as Barnes awarded a penalty after the admirable Stephen Ferris was also adjudged guilty of a spear tackle and yellow-carded.

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