SIX NATIONS RUGBY: Ireland survive Welsh scare to keep Six Nations Grand Slam on track


Jacob Stockdale crosses for the opening try in the Ireland v Wales game in Dublin

Ireland survived a late Welsh surge to keep their Nat West 6 Nations Championship Grand Slam on track at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Having come from 13-8 behind to lead 27-13, the Welsh set up a grandstand finish with a try two minutes from the end which put them 30-27 ahead.

Sign up to our daily NorthernIrelandWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But with the clock in the red, Jacob Stockdale, who had opened the Irish account in the sixth minute with a try - intercepted to score his eighth try in seven Irish appearances and Joe Carberry converted with the final action of the game.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicks Wales into a 3-0 lead after two minutes following an Irish offside.

Wales were then penalised after the Irish restart, but outhalf Jonathan Sexton saw his the reasonably straightforward attempt rebound off the right pole.

However, as the Welsh attempted to move the ball out of their '22', it went forward and Ireland seized their opportuinity.

After a scrum and several mauls, Sexton's quality drilled pass found winger Jacob Stockdale and he edotted down for his seven try in seven starts for Ireland. Sexton's touchline conversion brushed the left pole on the wrong side, but it was 5-3 to the hosts after five minutes.

Ireland's Bundee Aki scores a try against Wales just before half time

Ireland dominated from there but on 14 minutes Sexton missed his third straight attempt at goal,Welsh ill discipline off the hook.

Big bursts from Sexton inside hiw own '22' and then No 8 C J Stander had the Irish back in Welsh territory, but it was the red shirts who came away with ball and it was against the run of play that scrumhalf Gareth Davies was allowed to basically waltz in for a try under the posts after 21 minutes. Halfpenny's conversion was a formality and the lead was extended to 10-5.

Halfpenny missed a long range penalty attempt from just inside how own half but when there was another chance presented 15m further forward on 29 minutes he made no mistake and the lead was out to eight points.

A thunderous surge from the men in green saw almost every player involved in the next series of phases, but the Welsh help them up short of the line. A penalty in front of the posts was duly despatched from Sexton on 35 minutes, his first successful goal in four attempts.

Ireland's Bundee Aki scores a try against Wales just before half time

The Irish got the perfect lift before the interval, 14 phases of play rewarded when centre Bundee Aki crashed through and Sexton converted to send the hosts in 15-13 ahead.

That momentum continued into the second half and five minutes in backrow Dan Leavy went over after some fierce home pressure., Sexton converted for a 22-13 lead.

The Irish saw their opportunity to put the squeeze on further and having set up camp close to the Welsh line, the pressure was finally rewarded when Cian Healy burrowed over from close range to secure the bonus point securing fourth try.

Sexton failed with the touchline conversion but with a 27-13 lead after 54 minutes the Irish Grand Slam championship bid was looking fully on course.

The Welsh reaction was to change their entire front row but the Irish had their tails up now, Sexton turned all over on the ground, Keith Earls put in a huge kick and started to chase, rounding backrow Aaron Shingler and looked certain to score only to be impeded by the later - with no sympathy from the match officials.

It was ironic in some ways that Shingler crossed for a try to bring Wales right back in the game 10 minutes later, Halfpenny landing a superb touchline conversion.

With fresh legs on both sides, the game was opening further and Ireland turned down a penalty at the posts. Sexton took a quick-tap, but rather than give to the supporting Conor Murray and Stockdale, went into contact. Ireland eventually lost possession through a knock on.

Wales threatened on either flank, but the Irish scramble defence covered comfortably.

Murray, now handed the penalty kicking duties, nailed a 35m kick five minutes from the end to put Ireland into a 10 point advantage.

Within a minute a Steff Evans try, converted by Halfpenny, had the Welsh back within three points again and memories of that draw two years ago flashed back in the minds.

With the Welsh on the attack and the clock in the red, Stockdale intercepted a pass on the Irish 10m line and stormed clear to the delight of the Aviva faifthful and secure the win.

Replacement Joey Carberry added the extras to complete the scoring.