Six Nations: Stockdale plays down superb start for Ireland

Andrew Cummings
February 25, 2018

Sexton missed his first three goalkicks and was turned over but Ireland's grip looked firm - until Wales flanker Aaron Shingler split the defence and halfback Gareth Davies pouched a loose pass and darted over. For Gatland there was no celebration for his 100 game in charge of Wales. 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.

The match stats at this stage were very much in Ireland' s favour - Tackles made: Ire 70-144 Wal Possession: Ire 73%-27% Wal - but the result was still within Wales' grasp. The conversion saw Ireland carry a 15-13 lead into the break, a paltry return for such sizeable graft. Halfpenny made no mistake with the conversion and sprinted back to the halfway line so that the game could restart.

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Ireland lead Wales 15-13 at half-time in the Six Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium, and despite some spurned opportunities, one huge positive for Joe Schmidt and Ireland thus far has been the showing of Chris Farrell.

They face an improving Scotland side, who will come to Dublin in a fortnight on the back of a 25-13 win over champions England.

With a penalty in the offing the Irish banged away at the Welsh line and in the end it was Bundee Aki who went over from a metre out - Sexton adding the extras to give the Irish an unlikely halftime lead.

Two things we learnt - Ireland are making hard work of winning; Wales are an extremely difficult side to kill off as they keep coming back!

"Unfortunately, his goal-kicking wasn't what it normally is but to coin a golf analogy - you can be super off the tee and your short irons can be great but he didn't quite have the putting game that he normally does", added Schmidt.

And the Dragons defence was found wanting once again, as flanker Dan Leavy found a hug hole to power through for the third Irish try.

As Warren Gatland said: "What Ireland are good at is squeezing sides and they squeezed us today".

Cian Healy capped off a dominant period for the forwards with Ireland's fourth try and a bonus point a couple of phases later after 54 minutes.

While it may not have been as comfortable as the 10-point margin of victory suggests, Ireland made it three wins out of three in the competition.

Wales took advantage by conjuring up a breakout try.

But the Welsh didn't think so as a brilliant offload by Scott Williams ended with Steff Evans going in under the posts. Halfpenny posted a tough penalty just two minutes in when Aki played the ball offside from Earls knocking on a Biggar crossfield punt.

Then as Wales went for broke Stockdale picked off a loose Gareth Anscombe pass and cantered home under the posts.

It was just as well from the home team's point of view as Steff Evans rounded off Wales best handling move for a 77th minute try that raised hopes of an improbable victory.

Conor Murray's quick ball on the short side found the fly-half who's zipped pass cut out three helpless Welsh defenders for Jacob Stockdale to dive over untouched for his seventh worldwide try in as many appearances after seven minutes.

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