Ireland took their first step towards the Six Nations trophy with a 19-9 victory against Wales in Cardiff.
The pre-tournment favourites scored three tries to nil, but were pushed all the way by a committed home side missing the influential Gareth Thomas.
It took Ireland just 45 seconds to score the game’s first try, when Stephen Jones’s kick was charged down by Brian O’Driscoll and Rory Best dived on the loose ball.
Jones made amends to some extent with three penalties before O’Driscoll stepped past Kevin Morgan to score in the right-hand corner. O’Gara slotted the touchline conversion to make it 12-9 at the break.
The second half was closely contested and it was only in the 71st minute that Ireland sealed the victory. Having sucked in the majority of the Welsh defenders, the visitors attacked the blindside with O’Gara going over in the right-hand corner. The flyhalf got back to his feet to kick another touchline conversion for a 10-point cushion.
Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan will be particularly pleased with the performance of Gordon D’Arcy, who was deservedly named Man of the Match. The midfielder was dangerous with ball in hand, and outshone O’Driscoll on the day.
Wales – Penalties: Stephen Jones (3).
Ireland – Tries: David Leamy, Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara. Conversions: Ronon O’Gara (2).