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Joe Schmidt downplays talk of Ireland's Six Nations Grand Slam hopes

26 February, 2018, 09:36 | Author: Sylvester Abbott
  • Warren Gatland praised Ireland's style of play after his side's 37-27 loss in the Aviva Stadium

"I thought we helped them be exciting at times, which isn't something we're trying to do at all".

However, the 52-year-old New Zealander, who was speaking after the Irish had secured a bonus point win in a pulsating 37-27 win over Wales at Lansdowne Road, added that confidence is a "fickle friend".

Scotland produced a blistering display of attacking rugby to hand Eddie Jones just his second defeat as England head coach and end the visitors' Grand Slam aspirations with a 25-13 Six Nations victory at Murrayfield. They attempted to attack with very awkward passes along the line, which lacked any deception and creativity and often didn't cause Ireland, and many teams they have played in the past, any problems.

If Wales were using a rope-a-dope strategy, it worked perfectly.

Ireland turned round at the break with two-point lead.

Yet it wasn't just Sexton's kicking that made life hard for Ireland. Theirs were the ball-carriers - practically everyone in green took a turn - and theirs the pattern-weavers in midfield. The conversion saw Ireland carry a 15-13 lead into the break, a paltry return for such sizeable graft.

By that stage he had failed to convert a Jacob Stockdale try, Ireland's opening score of the worldwide, and had missed an earlier penalty kick a player of his quality would expect to score.

Ireland bullied Wales in the second half, depriving them of possession and pinning them in back in their own half. Sexton missed an opportunity to level from the tee soon after when he struck a post, but he made amends by playing a key role in an early Ireland try. "He and Johnny might well miss training on Tuesday but they will have well and truly earned it".

It was so long in coming because of the 10 unanswered points Wales registered between the two tries.

Schmidt and Gatland in conversation before the game
Schmidt and Gatland in conversation before the game

However, once again Ireland made a mess of the restart and when Wales won a penalty off a scrum, Cai Evans, son of Wales legend Ieuan, made it an 10-point game.

Cian Healy scored Ireland's next try when squeezing over on the blindside on 53 minutes, with Sexton unfortunately unable to convert this time, his effort going right and wide. They did not let up in the second half.

"Italy have definitely improved from a conditioning point of view and they stayed in the game against France for a while so we mustn't get too impatient".

With Jonathan Sexton having a rare off day with the boot, Ireland needed tries and they got enough of them to warrant a bonus point, with Jacob Stockdale (2), Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy all crossing the whitewash.

All that tackling Wales had to do in the first half started to have an impact. Meanwhile, Wales welcomed back Lions backs Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Biggar, and Liam Williams.

Murray stood in for Sexton to kick a penalty and seemingly put the Irish out of sight at 30-20 with five minutes to go.

WALES: L Halfpenny; L Williams, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; D Biggar, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens, S Lee; C Hill, AW Jones (c); A Shingler, J Navidi, R Moriarty.

Now the fitness they are so proud of had a chance to showcase itself, Wales off in search of a fourth try and the unlikeliest of victories. It didn't matter as Ireland got the ball back straight away and Sexton threw at outrageous cut-out pass for Jacob Stockdale to score in the corner.

Ireland's large forward platform and strong set piece is a joy to watch as a neutral rugby fan as they can make it look so easy and are starting to gather momentum with it.



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