Report: Wales avoid scare to win 21-16 against 14-man Ireland

By Joe Mansfield.

WALES survived a late surge to claim victory against a valiant 14-man Ireland in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations at the Principality Stadium.

Ireland had the opportunity to press for a match-winning try in over-time, but Billy Burns failed to find touch with his kick to the corner and secured a Welsh victory.

Peter O’Mahony became the first Irishman to be sent off in the Six Nations when he was given his marching orders in the 14th minute. The blindside flanker connected with the head of Tomas Francis as he attempted a clear-out and gave referee Wayne Barnes no choice but to dismiss him to the stands.

The hosts started the game on the front foot as Leigh Halfpenny opened his points scoring account for the Championship in the fifth minute with a regulation penalty kick.

Wayne Pivac’s men were handed a set-back in the 12th minute when Dan Lydiate’s first international appearance since 2018 was cut short by a knee injury.

The game then went through a scrappy period as Wales failed to press home their one-man advantage and Johnny Sexton matched Halfpenny’s pair of penalties to level the scores. Both sides had difficulty retaining possession at the lineout and struggled to get their attack to function.

Tadgh Beirne put paid to any hopes of a comfortable Welsh win when he crossed the try-line on the brink of half time. Robbie Henshaw created the try with a fleet-footed line break and offload to the supporting Josh van der Flier, who was brought down just inches short of the line. A quick clear-out paved the way for Beirne to send Ireland into the half time-break seven points ahead.

George North reduced the deficit to just two points when he ghosted through the Irish defence from quick turnover ball.

Minutes later the outside centre was influential again, quick hands from him and Halfpenny gave Louis Rees-Zammit yards of space to charge into. The electric winger did just that and accelerated into the corner, finishing the try on his Six Nation debut with an aerial leap to avoid being shunted into touch by the covering defence.

Halfpenny added the extras and extended the lead in the following minutes with his third penalty of the game.

Undeterred by the challenge posed by being down on the scoresheet and a man light, the visitors struck fear into Welsh hearts by marauding forward. The industrious Irish attack was rewarded by a penalty late on to set up a grand finale.

Gareth Davies naively relinquished possession with seconds left on the clock and the visiting side nearly punished the half-backs ill-judgement. They won a penalty and looked to kick to the corner but Burns kicked the ball dead to deny them the opportunity to push for a match-winning try.

The despair of Burns displayed stark contrast to the elation of Pivac’s men, whose blushes were saved and much needed victory was obtained.

Wales face Scotland at Murrayfield in six days time.

Man of the Match – Wyn Jones

Incident log:

Wales –

Tries – George North (49’), Louis Rees Zammit (59’)

Conversions – Leigh Halfpenny (60)

Penalties – Leigh Halfpenny (5’, 19’, 66’)



Tries – Tadgh Beirne (37’)

Conversions – Johnny Sexton (39’)

Penalties – Johnny Sexton (29’, 35’), Billy Burns (73’)

Red Card – Peter O’Mahony (14’)


Wales XV: 15-Leigh Halfpenny; 14-Louis Rees-Zammit, 13-George North, 12-Johnny Williams, 11-Hallam Amos; 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Tomos Williams; 1-Wyn Jones, 2-Ken Owens, 3-Tomas Francis, 4-Adam Beard, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Justin Tipuric, 8-Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Rhodri Jones, 18-Leon Brown, 19-Will Rowlands, 20-Josh Navidi, 21-Gareth Davies, 22-Callum Sheedy, 23-Nick Tompkins

Ireland XV: 15-Hugo Keenan; 14-Keith Earls, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-James Lowe; 10-Johnny Sexton (captain), 9-Conor Murray; 1-Cian Healy, 2-Rob Herring, 3-Andrew Porter, 4-Tadhg Beirne, 5-James Ryan, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 7-Josh van der Flier, 8-CJ Stander

Replacements: 16-Ronan Kelleher, 17-Dave Kilcoyne, 18-Tadhg Furlong, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Will Connors, 21-Jamison Gibson Park, 22-Billy Burns, 23-Jordan Larmour