Wales 22-30 Ireland, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium
Ireland hold off Welsh second half comeback
February 2, 2013
Date/Time: Feb 2, 2013, 13:30 local, 13:30 GMT
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Wales 22 - 30 Ireland
Attendance: 73230  Half-time: 3 - 23
Tries: Cuthbert, Halfpenny, Mitchell
Cons: Halfpenny 2
Pens: Halfpenny
Tries: Healy, O'Driscoll, Zebo
Cons: Sexton 3
Pens: Sexton 3
Ireland's Simon Zebo touches down, Wales v Ireland, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 2, 2013
Simon Zebo grabbed the first points of the 2013 Six Nations with Ireland's opening try against Wales
© PA Photos

Match Analysis by ESPNscrum

  • Man of the Match: Brian O'Driscoll rolled back the years to put in a simply sublime performance. He was everywhere both in attack and defence teeing up Simon Zebo's try and bagging one for himself
  • Key Moment: O'Driscoll's score just after half-time made the difference 27 points in favour of the Irish. It was a deficit that proved to be too much for Wales to pin back. In terms of a key moment for Wales - look no further than Justin Tipuric's 44th minute introduction - they scored 19 points and conceded none from that moment onwards.
  • Hero of the Game: The Irish defence was just immense. They made 176 tackles to Wales' 101. It was the difference between the two teams.
  • Villain of the Game: Romain Poite will have done little to endear himself to the Welsh faithful. He missed O'Driscoll knocking the ball from Phillips' hands while there also looked to be a forward pass in the build up to Ireland's first try.
  • Talking Point: Wales are now eight games without a win - their last victory coming against France in the final match of last year's Six Nations. It does not get any easier for Rob Howley's men as they travel to Paris next weekend but the run of defeats is alarming.
  • Play of the Game: Simon Zebo produced a piece of skill that nearly defied logic. He controlled a rogue pass with his heel, it leaped up into his hands where he juggled the ball. A couple of phases later Cian Healy scored Ireland's second try.

Ireland beat reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Wales in a pulsating six-try encounter as they announced their title credentials at the Millennium Stadium.

First-half tries by wing Simon Zebo, on his first Six Nations appearance, and prop Cian Healy helped put daylight between the teams before imperious centre Brian O'Driscoll touched down shortly after the break.

Wales, 30-3 down and facing humiliation, stirred through touchdowns from wing Alex Cuthbert, full-back Leigh Halfpenny and substitute prop Craig Mitchell during a frantic second period when Ireland saw hooker Rory Best and scrum-half Conor Murray sin-binned.

But they ultimately left themselves with far too much to do as Ireland, despite playing almost the entire second period inside their own half, scored 30 points in Cardiff for the first time since 2001.

They condemned Wales to an eighth successive defeat - and a fifth Millennium Stadium reversal on the bounce - with interim head coach Rob Howley still searching for a first win against another Test-playing country.

Wales must now pick themselves up for a trip to Paris next Saturday, where title favourites France await, but yet again they were punished for failing to leave their starting blocks until it was way too late.

Such sluggishness proved a trait of Wales' four-Test autumn campaign this season, and Ireland needed no second invitation to capitalise, deservedly winning despite conceding 19 unanswered points after the 43rd minute.

It was Wales' first Six Nations loss since March 2011, but Ireland, in contrast, now have critical momentum that could drive them all the way to silverware in a tournament they last won four years ago.

Both teams launched their Six Nations campaigns on the back of considerable injury problems.

Wales were without Rhys Priestland, Richard Hibbard, Alun-Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones, while Ireland arrived in Cardiff minus key men Paul O'Connell, Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris.

But the scene was set under an open roof in glorious winter sunshine for a thrilling tussle, especially with so much at stake.

And it was Ireland that struck the opening blow after 11 minutes courtesy of sublime brilliance from O'Driscoll.

His ability to freeze the opposition defence surfaced in all its glory, with three Welsh defenders transfixed as he teased them before delivering a scoring pass to Zebo.

Zebo took the plaudits through scoring a try on his Six Nations debut, but O'Driscoll once again showcased breathtaking ability at the highest level, with Sexton's conversion making it 7-0.

Wales, despite some resilient defensive work from full-back Leigh Halfpenny, could not get out of their own half, and there was worse to come as Ireland smelt blood.

A Sexton penalty after 20 minutes extended the lead, and even when Wales occasionally moved into Irish territory their efforts were undone by a handling error or by choosing the wrong option.

And Ireland did not require a second invitation to make Wales pay, cutting them open again midway through a hopelessly one-sided affair.

© Getty Images

Best charged down Wales fly-half Dan Biggar's kick, and after skipper Jamie Heaslip linked slickly in midfield, Zebo's stunning flick off the back of his shin to hand enabled the move to continue.

It then needed a degree of patience from Ireland, but they handled things superbly in the build-up and Healy burrowed over from close range.

Sexton converted and then added another penalty, giving Ireland a 20-point advantage after 29 minutes and effectively sealing victory with indecent haste.

Halfpenny belatedly opened Wales' account with a penalty, but Sexton cancelled that out before the break as Ireland trooped off 23-3 ahead.

Wales had no option but to throw caution to the wind after the break. Ireland, though, had other ideas, and O'Driscoll crossed from close range for his team's third try.

Sexton added the extras, and there was only a hint of consolation for Wales when Cuthbert scored his sixth Test try eight minutes into the second period, with Halfpenny's conversion making it 30-10.

Wales, for the first time, were in territorial control, and they battered away at Ireland's line through a concerted passage of play that ended with Halfpenny touching down wide out after Best was yellow-carded by referee Romain Poite.

Although the visitors still enjoyed a healthy advantage, Wales were a different team from the opening period as they minimised their mistakes and put Ireland under the cosh.

The game was camped inside Ireland's 22, and when Mitchell muscled his way over during the final knockings their remained hope that Wales could somehow still complete a miracle comeback.

But it was not to be, with Ireland claiming a first win against Wales in the last four attempts and setting themselves up for England's Dublin visit tomorrow week.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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