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Wales slump to eighth consecutive loss despite second-half comeback against Ireland

Date

Mike Brown

WALES 22 IRELAND 30

Rory Best of Ireland makes a break after catching a charged-down ball.

Rory Best of Ireland makes a break after catching a charged-down ball. Photo: AFP

CARDIFF: Ireland survived a second-half comeback to kick-off their Six Nations campaign with a 30-22 victory Saturday and consign Wales to an eighth successive defeat.

Declan Kidney's men raced into 30-3 lead thanks to tries from Simon Zebo, Cian Healy and Brian O'Driscoll.

The game appeared dead and buried but Wales fought back with touchdowns of their own from Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig Mitchell.

Ireland winger Simon Zebo runs in the first try. Click for more photos

Ireland hold off Wales in Cardiff

Stirring second-half comeback not enough to prevent Wales' eighth successive defeat. Photo: Getty Images

However, it was not enough as Ireland hung on, and Kidney's men can now look forward to welcoming England to Dublin next week, while wounded Wales face a daunting trip to France.

"The first game is a must-win otherwise you are chasing your tail for the rest of the Championship. We started really well today," said O'Driscoll.

Wales interim coach Rob Howley admitted his team paid a heavy price for their first half problems when they slipped 23-3 down.

"We showed great character and resilience in the second half to come back into it, but we probably left three or four tries out there as well," he said.

"To score three tries and be on the losing side, you look back and that first 20 minutes was key."

Wales made a bright start at the Millennium Stadium but Ireland quickly took control of the encounter.

They launched a sustained period of pressure and they raced into the lead thanks to a bit of magic from veteran centre O'Driscoll.

After Rob Kearney fixed the Welsh defence with a clever dummy run, the Leinster legend mesmerised them to send Zebo into the corner.

Sexton slotted the conversion and Ireland continued to exert their dominance on the encounter, threatening the Welsh whitewash on several occasions.

Ireland settled for a Sexton penalty on 21 minutes, as Andrew Coombs came in from the side and was fortunate to escape a yellow card.

Within a matter of minutes the visitors extended their lead further when Dan Biggar, making his first appearance in the Six Nations, saw his clearance charged down by Rory Best, who re-gathered.

Best found Heaslip in support and the ball was flung to Zebo, who demonstrated sublime footballing ability to flick it into his hands.

The Munster wing was held by Halfpenny but Peter O'Mahony and Craig Gilroy maintained the pressure and Healy drove over.

Sexton added the extras and slotted a second penalty to stretch Ireland's lead to 20 points before Halfpenny hit back with Wales' first points.

The hosts rallied in the closing stages of the half but they were unable to turn pressure into points and they were punished for their inaccuracy with a Sexton penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Ireland took a giant stride towards victory within minutes of the restart, as they hammered at Wales' line and O'Driscoll dived through a gap for a crucial try.

Sexton again added the extras but the score sparked Wales into life and they launched a comeback as Cuthbert hit an inside line off Biggar to race under the sticks.

Halfpenny converted and Wales continued to pile the pressure on the visitors.

They camped themselves in Irish territory and Ireland fought with their lives to hang on, with Rory Best shown yellow for killing the ball.

Howley's men quickly capitalised on their numerical advantage with Jon Davies and Roberts combining with Halfpenny on the wing.

The gutsy full-back had it all to do but he finished superbly to give his side a glimmer of hope.

Wales continued to dominate both territory and possession but they were unable to break Ireland's fiercely committed defence.

Toby Faletau came close after bursting through the Irish but he was held agonisingly short and Conor Murray was shown yellow for killing the ball.

But Howley's men eventually earned their breakthrough thanks to the help of the video ref, who gave a try when Craig Mitchell dived over just minutes after coming off the bench.

Halfpenny converted but Wales were still left requiring eight points from the final five minutes.

They threw everything at Ireland in a frenetic closing period but it was not enough as Ireland hung on.

IRELAND 30 (Simon Zebo, Cian Healy, Brian O'Driscoll tries; Jonathan Sexton 3 con, 3 pens) def WALES 22 (Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny, Craig Mitchell tries; Leigh Halfpenny 2 con, pen)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Attendance:73,230

AFP

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BLU 0vs HIG 0 17:35EP
BRU 0vs HUR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 0vs Jagu 0 04:00FSS
Sunw 0vs LIO 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
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STO 0vs BUL 0 02:05DHL Newlands
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CRU 0vs BLU 0 17:35AMI
BRU 0vs WAR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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CHF 0vs LIO 0 15:15FMG Stadium Waikato
HIG 0vs HUR 0 17:35FBS
RED 0vs FOR 0 19:40SS
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BUL 0vs REB 0 00:00Loftu
CHT 0vs STO 0 02:05FSS
SHA 0vs Jagu 0 04:10GpKP
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Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 0vs HUR 0 17:35EP
FOR 0vs BRU 0 22:05nib Stadium
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HIG 0vs LIO 0 17:35FBS
REB 0vs RED 0 19:40AAMI
Sunw 0vs CHT 0 21:50Singapore National Stadium
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King 0vs CHF 0 00:00NMBS
STO 0vs SHA 0 02:05DHL Newlands
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Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 0vs FOR 0 17:35Central Energy Trust Arena
WAR 0vs HIG 0 19:40AS
Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 0vs SHA 0 04:00Loftu
Sunw 0vs REB 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
CRU 0vs King 0 17:35AMI
RED 0vs BLU 0 19:40SS
Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
LIO 0vs CHT 0 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO 0vs BRU 0 04:10DHL Newlands
Jagu 0vs CHF 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 0vs King 0 17:35WS
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 0vs FOR 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
REB 0vs HIG 0 19:40AAMI
Sunw 0vs BUL 0 21:50Singapore National Stadium
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 0vs BRU 0 00:00FSS
SHA 0vs CRU 0 02:05GpKP
Jagu 0vs STO 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
RED 0vs WAR 0 16:05SS
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Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
HIG 0vs FOR 0 17:35FBS
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CHF 0vs BLU 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
FOR 0vs CRU 0 21:00nib Stadium
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HUR 0vs Jagu 0 17:35WS
RED 0vs HIG 0 19:40SS
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SHA 0vs LIO 0 01:05GpKP
King 0vs BUL 0 03:10NMBS
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Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 0vs Jagu 0 17:35AMI
REB 0vs HUR 0 19:40AAMI
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
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BLU 0vs SHA 0 17:35EP
WAR 0vs BRU 0 19:40AS
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LIO 0vs STO 0 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
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Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HIG 0vs SHA 0 17:35FBS
REB 0vs CHT 0 19:40AAMI
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
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HUR 0vs CHF 0 17:35WS
FOR 0vs WAR 0 19:40nib Stadium
STO 0vs RED 0 23:00DHL Newlands
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
King 0vs LIO 0 01:05NMBS
BRU 0vs CRU 0 16:05GIO Stadium
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Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 0vs SHA 0 17:35Yarro
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Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
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RED 0vs CHT 0 19:40SS
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STO 0vs WAR 0 03:10DHL Newlands
Jagu 0vs King 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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CRU 0vs RED 0 17:35AMI
BRU 0vs BUL 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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CHF 0vs HIG 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
WAR 0vs CHT 0 19:40AS
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Round 12
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 0vs CRU 0 17:35FBS
REB 0vs BRU 0 19:40AAMI
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 0vs RED 0 17:35WS
WAR 0vs BUL 0 19:40AS
Sunw 0vs STO 0 21:45Singapore National Stadium
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CHT 0vs King 0 01:05FSS
LIO 0vs BLU 0 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
Jagu 0vs SHA 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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Round 13
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 0vs WAR 0 17:35AMI
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
RED 0vs Sunw 0 15:05SS
CHF 0vs REB 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
FOR 0vs BLU 0 19:40nib Stadium
LIO 0vs Jagu 0 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA 0vs King 0 01:05GpKP
BUL 0vs STO 0 03:10Loftu
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Round 14
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 0vs HIG 0 17:35WS
WAR 0vs CHF 0 19:40AS
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
King 0vs Jagu 0 03:00NMBS
BLU 0vs CRU 0 17:35EP
BRU 0vs Sunw 0 19:40GIO Stadium
STO 0vs CHT 0 23:00DHL Newlands
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BUL 0vs LIO 0 01:05Loftu
REB 0vs FOR 0 16:05AAMI
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HUR 0vs BLU 0 17:35WS
REB 0vs STO 0 19:40AAMI
CHT 0vs FOR 0 23:00FSS
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King 0vs HIG 0 03:10NMBS
Jagu 0vs BUL 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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BLU 0vs BRU 0 17:35EP
RED 0vs CHF 0 19:40SS
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LIO 0vs King 0 03:00Emirates Airlines Park
CRU 0vs REB 0 17:35AMI
WAR 0vs HUR 0 19:40AS
FOR 0vs STO 0 21:45nib Stadium
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BUL 0vs Sunw 0 01:05Loftu
SHA 0vs CHT 0 03:10GpKP
Jagu 0vs HIG 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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BLU 0vs WAR 0 17:35EP
RED 0vs REB 0 19:40SS
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SHA 0vs Sunw 0 03:00GpKP
CRU 0vs HUR 0 15:15AMI
HIG 0vs CHF 0 17:35FBS
BRU 0vs FOR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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STO 0vs King 0 01:05DHL Newlands
CHT 0vs BUL 0 03:10FSS
Jagu 0vs LIO 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
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