Leigh Halfpenny kicked a last-minute penalty to give Wales a 23-21 victory over Ireland in a compelling Six Nations clash in Dublin.
There will be conjecture about the validity of the penalty that proved decisive. Stephen Ferris was called for a dangerous tackle but television replays suggest the decision was harsh. It was a shame that a match of this calibre was decided by a controversial call but it was an epic nonetheless.
The quality was as good and sometimes better than anything you’ll see in the Rugby Championship this season. The sides’ tries were excellent in their construction and execution, featuring the most sublime handling skills.
The first from Wales’ flyhalf Rhys Priestland, who committed two defenders and put Jonathan Davies away with a fine offload. Ireland’s was a collective effort from the back division, who shifted the ball through the hands sharply, Rory Best rounding off the move. Wales’ second came thanks to a superlative touch from big George North, the winger floating up a back-of-the-hand offload that put Davies clean through.
For Wales Priestland continues to impress as an international flyhalf, his cause aided by powerful and largely precise phase play from his forwards. However, his goal-kicking needs attention. He missed three from three, which wasn’t costly in the final analysis but could well have been on another day. Ireland’s pivot Jonathan Sexton had no such trouble and going into the final quarter his third penalty gave his side a narrow 16-15 lead.
Bradley Davies undermined Wales’ ambition when he was yellow carded for a horrific dump-tackle that should have earned him a stronger sanction. Two minutes later Ireland winger Tommy Bowe finished a multi-phase move that depleted Wales’ defensive line. Sexton missed the conversion and with four minutes to play Wales drew within a point with a try from North. Halfpenny missed the touchline conversion but held his nerve when it mattered to give the Dragons a famous win.
By Ryan Vrede