Six Nations: Ireland hammer sorry Wales 29-7 in one-sided opener

Andrew Conway stretches over for Ireland's second try
Andrew Conway scored two tries in quick succession after the break as Ireland pulled away
Ireland (10) 29
Tries: Aki, Conway 2, Ringrose Cons: Sexton 3 Pen: Sexton
Wales (0) 7
Try: Basham Con: Sheedy

Ireland picked up where they left off in 2021 as they blew away a toothless Wales in a one-sided Six Nations opener.

The dominant hosts scored only one try in the first half, through Bundee Aki.

Andrew Conway’s quickfire double and a magnificent Garry Ringrose effort after the break saw Ireland accelerate away from the injury-ravaged visitors.

Only Taine Basham’s late try saved Wales the ignominy of a scoreless defeat.

Wayne Pivac’s side remain without a victory in Dublin since 2015 and have rarely looked less likely to win in the Irish capital as they were stifled throughout by an impressive Irish defence.

Given the extent of their injury list it was always going to be a tough opening assignment for the defending champions, yet the manner of their performance will provide great cause for concern as they begin preparations for Scotland in Cardiff next week.

Debutant Hansen impresses as Ireland take charge

Wales arrived in Dublin missing multiple seasoned campaigners who have over 700 Test caps combined, with Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and George North among a lengthy injury list.

Their cause was not helped in the warm-up when Louis Rees-Zammit went down and required heavy strapping on what appeared to be an ankle injury.

The wing remained in the side but Ireland, perhaps spotting his injury, attacked his flank from the very start as debutant Mack Hansen fended the Gloucester man off before surging from his own half into the 22 with his first involvement in an Ireland shirt.

He further advanced an excellent first impression in the next passage of play – swinging the ball wide for Aki to stroll in for the opening try of this year’s tournament.

Mack Hansen in action
Connacht wing Mack Hansen carried for 152 metres on a lively international debut

Ireland’s backs were working off a dream platform provided by their forwards who knocked Wales’ defence back with every carry and provided quick ball for Jamison Gibson-Park.

By contrast Wales struggled to get anything going and would have been facing a bigger deficit reflective of Ireland’s early dominance had Johnny Sexton not sliced two straightforward penalties wide.

The first 20 minutes were – with the exception of Sexton’s kicking – defined by Irish accuracy, which somewhat deserted the hosts for the second half of the opening 40 as scrappy errors gifted Wales the opportunity to attack.

Despite some smart Dan Biggar kicking Ireland held firm with Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan winning turnovers just inside their 22 as Wales huffed and puffed without putting any pressure on the try line against an Irish defence that did not concede a single penalty in the opening half.

Conway double puts hosts out of sight

The risk of an early second-half sucker punch prevented any Irish complacency despite their dominance, and when Conway stretched brilliantly to graze the whitewash in the corner and extend Ireland’s lead to 17 points after four minutes of the second half, the door slammed shut on a Wales fightback.

The visitors’ cause was not helped on 49 minutes when Josh Adams was sent to the sin-bin for an off-the-ball hit on Sexton just as Wales began to apply some pressure in Irish territory.

On his 102nd international appearance, Ireland skipper Sexton wasted little time in exploiting his side’s advantage, taking them into the Welsh half before Josh van der Flier burst to within inches of the line.

Gibson-Park recycled and looped a long pass out to Conway for the simplest of finishes.

Josh Adams checks Johnny Sexton
Josh Adams was shown yellow early in the second half for a hit on Johnny Sexton

Lauded in the autumn for their dynamism, Ireland’s front five were again on song against a Welsh pack who, without several key figures, struggled to cope with their opposition at the breakdown.

Ringrose’s bonus point-clinching score came on the hour mark as Andrew Porter ripped the ball free at a ruck allowing Ireland to quickly move the ball right to Ringrose, who put his foot on the gas and curved his run inside two Welsh defenders to finish brilliantly.

Only in the 54th minute did Ireland concede their first penalty, for collapsing a maul, and they continued to control the contest as they eyed a clean sheet with the minutes ticking down.

They were denied that feat by Six Nations debutant Basham – the liveliest of the Welsh pack on the day – when he picked off an ill-advised Beirne offload to saunter between the posts in the 75th minute and provide Wales with a late consolation score.

Ireland: Keenan; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Hansen; Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong; Beirne, Ryan; Doris, van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Bealham, Baird, O’Mahony, Murray, Carbery, Hume.

Wales: L Williams; McNicholl, Adams, Tompkins, Rees-Zammit; Biggar, T Williams; W Jones, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, E Jenkins, Basham, Wainwright.

Replacements: Lake, G Thomas, D Lewis, Carter, Moriarty, G Davies, Sheedy, Watkin.

Match officials

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Touch judges: Mathieu Raynal (France) & Angus Gardner (Australia)

TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

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