Match Report – Ireland 32 – 9 Wales

Ireland added to Wales’ miserable 2020 on Friday with a 32-9 win in the opening game of the new Autumn Nations Cup that has replaced the usual mix of northern versus southern hemisphere clashes derailed by COVID-19.

The home side’s scrum exerted its dominance early on with Andrew Porter giving a crumpling Rhys Carre a torrid time to provide the platform for Quinn Roux to grab the opening try after 23 minutes and help Ireland to a worthy 16-6 half-time lead.

Wales could only briefly cut the deficit to seven points and last year’s Six Nations Grand Slam winners and World Cup semi-finalists were well on the way to a sixth loss in a row when Ireland’s New Zealand-born wing James Lowe got a deserved debut try.

Leigh Halfpenny slotted three penalties for Wales, but they slumped to their longest losing run for eight years, with the only wins from eight starts since Wayne Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland a year ago being against Italy and the Barbarians.

Despite Pivac fielding 14 of the starting line-up on duty against Six Nations conquerors Scotland a fortnight ago, his players did not threaten to make amends for that dismal display.

A week that started with defence coach Byron Hayward departing his job ended in Wales finishing second best, and leaving Pivac with plenty to ponder.

Tempers frayed twice during the first five minutes as Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones and Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony got to grips with each other, before Lowe was involved in a fracas alongside visiting wings Liam Williams and Josh Adams.

Referee Mathieu Raynal issued a general warning to Jones and opposite number Sexton, before the latter opened the scoring by kicking a penalty on his 100th appearance for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.

Wales showed far more urgency than against Scotland, and they drew level after 17 minutes when Halfpenny kicked a short-range penalty.

Ireland sacrificed a kickable penalty for an attacking scrum early in the second quarter, and it paid dividends as sustained forward pressure ended with Roux diving over to claim the game’s opening try.

Sexton converted, before adding a second penalty shortly afterwards as Ireland surged 10 points clear.

But the Ireland skipper’s night ended when he limped off, meaning a Test debut for Ulster’s Bath-born number 10 Billy Burns as Halfpenny’s 40-metre penalty made it 13-6.

Burns opened his points account five minutes before the break with a penalty as poor Wales discipline again let them down.

The visitors infringed at regular intervals, and Pivac hauled off prop Carre – he was replaced by Wyn Jones – as Ireland looked to increase their lead.

Despite Pivac making a front-row change, Wales continued to experience scrum problems as Ireland’s tighthead prop Andrew Porter maintained dominant form.

Halfpenny sent a 50-metre penalty just short of the target, but he made amends shortly afterwards, cutting Wales’ deficit to seven points.

Burns then landed a second penalty, and Ireland were 10 points ahead again approaching the hour mark.

Wales lost centre Jonathan Davies to an injury, which meant George North replacing him and becoming the youngest player, at 28 years, 214 days, in rugby union history to make 100 Test match appearances.

Burns was then forced out of the action, with Murray going on and slotting a penalty after taking over kicking duties, before another penalty nine minutes from time sealed the deal ahead of Lowe’s 80th-minute touchdown – converted by Murray.

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