Ireland remain on course for a Grand Slam following a try-fest victory over Wales at the Aviva stadium. Ireland dominated the second half that saw an interception try take the game and any points out of Wales hands late on.
Ireland Grand Slam can now be talked about
The Six Nations is now past half way and Ireland are three out of three with Scotland and England up next. Two tries from Stockdale and a try each from Aki, Leavy and Healy pushed the Irish to a 33-27 victory over Wales.
Ireland’s bonus point really gives them the lead in the title race following on from England’s non bonus point victory over Wales two weeks before.
Defeating Wales means that Irish fans can now speak, or perhaps whisper of the Grand Slam.
Ireland’s defence standing strong
Wales bombarded the Irish line heavily throughout the opening half an hour and even targeted a kicking game that thoroughly tested the Irish back three. Wales grabbed a few scores from it, but promising for Ireland was how solid they were in response.
A strong defence may sound bizarre when considering it leaked 27 points, but Ireland tightened up when it mattered. Between 35 minutes and 75 minutes, Ireland were firmly in control.
Wales couldn’t gather any momentum and couldn’t distribute ball through phases against a tough Irish line. Line speed was well kept and despite an early threat in the aerial battle, Dan Biggar’s and Wales kicking ceased as the game went on.
Ireland defended narrowly and while it allowed Wales some space out wide, they pinched it up the inside and applied their pressure on the Welsh pack from the breakdown.
Ireland Grand Slam lies with fresh attack
Ireland have introduced several new faces since the autumn and some of those have been Jacob Stockdale and Chris Farrell. Both were outstanding today, Farrell claiming MoTM for his attacking flair and defensive clout.
Stockdale grabbed two more tries today and looked sharp on the wing and always looked to keep the ball alive, breaking inside towards the forwards. A sign of a player who firmly believes in the coaching structure as well as his teammates.
If Ireland want the Grand Slam then they will have to keep up this run of points as their points difference now lies on +45. Scotland are a team who can score tries and so providing Ireland can get multiple scores you would think it would be too much for the Scots to overhaul them.
England will be a game revolving much more around the sides defence. Scoring when your chance comes is something that needs to be done.
Ireland’s platform for attack is something that Scotland and England will have to watch out for. Gaining yards from carries is nothing unusual nor new from any side, but Ireland carry in pods. The next man is already joined on to the carrier in the attack, allowing for an extra 2-3 yards per carry. This is huge when trying to reset a defensive line so close to your own line.
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.
Scotland at home the next hurdle
Ireland at home is a tough game for anyone, but following on from last years result at Murrayfield Scotland may be heading into the fixture with more confidence than usual.
Ireland just need to retain a solid defensive platform, but hold out on silly penalties or loose positioning that cost them points vs. Wales.
An Ireland Grand Slam will be well on if they carry the ball hard and defend the ball, with momentum swinging their way as they battle for the Triple Crown, the Title and a Grand Slam all in one week.
Joe Schmidt will hope that his sides lineout functions better than it did against the Welsh, but it’s something that they still attacked from despite pressure throughout from the Welsh jumpers.
Sexton’s kicking game mixed bag
It was well documented by the media that there would be a kicking battle between Biggar and Sexton in this game.
It started off with both testing each other out. Both utilising the kicking game well it must be said, but kicking out of hand wasn’t Sexton’s kicking issue.
Off the tee he was dreadful in the early on, missing a handful of points. If Ireland want to beat England and possibly Scotland they have to take all their opportunities as they come. Taking three points is often the best option, but missing so many kicks this week won’t fill his coaches with maximum confidence.
Ireland Grand Slam, will it come?
Scotland have proved since Gregor Townsend took over that they are a new breed. A new era. Playing with no fear of losing and intensity unmatched by most, they have had a mixed Six Nations campaign following the opening weekend crushing at the hands of Wales.
They run the ball well and look to utilise space in the backline, something Ireland have more of than most teams. If Scotland are allowed to get quick ball then the tackle count will be huge from Ireland’s centre’s in order to stop tries leaking.
Farrell and Aki will be confident that they can stop any attack launched by Hogg, Maitland and Jones following today’s impressive display.
Ireland’s back row will be in a hotly contested battle with arguably the on form Six Nations back rower, John Barclay laying down the gauntlet every 80 minutes so far.
Keep Scotland contained and the Ireland Grand Slam will be on come the meeting at Twickenham in week five.
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