/ Six Nations 2016

Johnny Sexton salvages draw for Ireland after pulsating Wales battle in Six Nations

By John Fallon at Aviva Stadium | Updated: Monday, 08 Feb 2016 15:58 | Comments

Conor Murray barges over for his try
Conor Murray barges over for his try

The Grand Slam and the Triple Crown are gone for Ireland and Wales this season but the Six Nations championship remains very much alive for both sides after they played out what was their seventh draw in 124 meetings.

A 21-21 draw in Cardiff in 1991 was the last time these sides tied a match and they had to settle for a share of the spoils at the Aviva Stadium, with Wales coming back from 13-0 adrift in the opening half.

It was Ireland who had to come from behind in the closing stages to salvage a 16-16 draw and keep alive their hopes of becoming the first side to win the Six Nations three years running.

Wales suffered a pre-match blow when full-back Gareth Anscombe had to withdraw with a hamstring injury and they were forced into another change at the end of the opening quarter when out-half Dan Bigger hobbled off with an ankle injury.

He winced with pain from the injury picked up earlier when he was off target with a penalty from the right wing after 19 minutes.

Try for Ireland - Conor Murray

By then Ireland were 6-0 in front after a blistering start which saw them take the game to the Welsh from the outset, with a 19-phase move yielding an opening penalty for Jonathan Sexton after five minutes.

Wales hit back but a 17-phase move was brought to a halt by a superb Andrew Trimble tackle on Jamie Roberts.

With CJ Stander impressing on his international debut with some superb carries, Ireland doubled their lead after 14 minutes when Sexton landed his second penalty from the left.

It was clear that Wales had an edge in the scrum and while the injured Biggar was unable to find the target with the first of the penalties they won in the scrum, the visitors knew this was a weapon they could turn to.

Stander was stopped short after a drive following a poor clearance by Priestland.

But Ireland scored from the resultant five-metre scrum when Conor Murray dashed over after Robbie Henshaw and Jack McGrath were stopped to score his fifth international try on 43 minutes.

Sexton slotted the conversion and Ireland had a great platform for victory when they led 13-0 after 27 minutes.

Wales, though, did not panic and by the interval they cut the gap to three points with their powerful pack leading the way.

Keith Earls was penalised for a tip tackle on Liam Williams and Priestland hit the target with the penalty from 37 metres on the right to get Wales off the mark.

They turned the screw two minutes before the break when Trimble was forced to concede a five-metre scrum as he and Justin Tipuric chased a Jonathan Davies chip down the left wing.

Wales won a penalty off the scrum and as advantage was being played Simon Zebo did enough to thwart a crossfield kick from Priestland with two Welsh attackers raiding.

Wales opted for the scrum again and No.8 Taulupe Faletau broke off the base and made it over the line for his fifth international try in 53 appearances.

Priestland added the extras and suddenly Ireland’s commanding lead was shredded to 13-10 at the break.

Wales continued to press forward after the restart and while Priestland was off target with a drop goal, he tied the match after 46 minutes when he kicked a penalty from 30 metres on the left after Irish captain Rory Best was penalised for going off his feet.

Irish flanker Tommy O’Donnell, back for his first international since suffering a hip dislocation in a World Cup warm-up against Wales in August, went off injured after 48 minutes with Rhys Ruddock replacing him.

RBS 6 Nations Extras: The Points - Ireland/Wales

Handling became difficult for both sets of players as the rain arrived in the second-half with Zebo unable to hold the ball in a promising Irish move, while at the other end Welsh hooker Scott Baldwin also spilled the ball with the home defence stretched.

Wales piled on the pressure but while Ireland defended 28 phases and turned the ball over, they lost it almost straight away when Jack McGrath was pinged for holding on and Priestland steered the penalty from the right wing to put Wales in front for the first time seven minutes from time.

But the lead lasted just over a minute as Welsh replacement tighthead Thomas Francis was penalised and Sexton landed a superb kick from over 40 metres to tie the sides at 16-16 and ensure a gripping finish but neither side could conjure a winner at the end of an entertaining contest.

The task now for Joe Schmidt and his men will be the six day turnaround before facing France in Paris with injury concerns about Sexton, O’Donnell, Earls and others as they try to hold on to their RBS Six Nations crown.

Ireland: S Zebo; A Trimble, J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, N White; M McCarthy, D Toner; CJ Stander, J Heaslip, T O’Donnell.

Replacements: R Ruddock for O’Donnell (49 mins); T Furlong for White (64 mins); D Ryan for McCarthy (64 mins); D Kearney for Earls (72 mins); S Cronin for Best (76 mins); I Madigan for Sexton (76 mins).

Wales: L Williams; G North, J Davies, J Roberts, T James; D Biggar, G Davies; R Evans, S Baldwin, S Lee; L Chateris; A Wyn Jones; S Warburton, T Faletau, J Tipuric.

Replacements: R Priestland for Biggar (21 mins); G Jenkins for Evans (53 mins); T Francis for Lee (58 mins); B Davies for Chateris (62 mins); K Owens for Baldwin (64 mins); L Williams for Davies (72 mins); D Lydiate for Tipuric (73 mins).

Referee: J Garces (France)

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use