Wales secured their third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland with a dominant 25-7 defeat of Ireland at the Principality Stadium.
The hosts took the lead in the second minute as Hadleigh Parkes latched onto an intelligent Gareth Anscombe chip to score the game’s opening try.
It would be the match’s only touch down until deep into time added on, when Jordan Larmour eventually got Ireland off the mark, but in-between man-of-the-match Anscombe kept the scoreboard ticking for the hosts with six penalties.
The party in Cardiff will be long and loud but how did the Six Nations champions rate on the pitch?
Liam Williams – 7
Switched to the right wing after George North was injured. Not a day for the back-three to showcase their attacking talents, but can be happy with his defensive display.
George North – 6
Forced off within 10 minutes due to injury but played a huge part in Hadleigh Parkes’ try. Chased down Gareth Anscombe’s pin-point kick-off to help haul Jacob Stockdale into touch. From the resulting lineout the hosts ultimately scored.
Jonathan Davies – 8
Has been one of Wales’ best performers this Championship as much for what he does without the ball than what he does with it. That was again the case on Saturday amid the downpour in Cardiff. Marshalled the Welsh defensive effort brilliantly and offered a calm presence in the back line – as best highlighted by his 30th-minute clearing kick that unusually found touch to relieve some Irish pressure.
Hadleigh Parkes – 8
Is renowned for his defence more than attack but read Anscombe’s early chip brilliantly to give Wales the perfect start. Has faced questions over his pace but showed good wheels to get back and tackle Stockdale with the Ireland wing pinning his ears back for the try line. A flawless overall performance in defence.
— Welsh Rugby Union ? (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 17, 2019
Josh Adams – 7
Guilty of a reckless trip on Keith Earls that allowed Ireland to relieve some early pressure but recovered to put in another impressive performance. Was Wales’ most effective runner, making 25 metres in difficult conditions, including one electric second-half break. Dealt with everything that came his way – including an impromptu first-half clearance kick.
Gareth Anscombe – 9
Showed why he is Wales’ starting fly-half with the first-minute chip that exploited the space left by Rob Kearney behind Ireland’s defensive line and allowed Parkes to score. Moved to fullback shortly afterwards but was sound under the high ball in increasingly difficult conditions. Had the confidence to retain kicking duties after Biggar came on and was perfect from the tee. Deserved man of the match.
Gareth Davies – 7
An ill-advised decision to tackle Bundee Aki while the Ireland centre was on the floor led referee Angus Gardner to overturn a Wales penalty but otherwise this was a solid performance from the scrum-half. Was controlled in difficult conditions and sent a couple of well-judged up-and-unders towards the Irish 22 for Biggar and others to chase.
Rob Evans – 7
Was part of a Wales scrum that got the better of their Irish counterparts, particularly in the first half. Always a willing worker in the loose, provided a carrying option and was effective over the ball.
Ken Owens – 9
Set the tone for an influential performance by hitting Alun Wyn Jones with his first-minute lineout and then carrying deep into the Ireland 22 in the lead-up to Parkes’ try. Carried effectively, tackled hard and ensured that the Welsh lineout stood up to what pressure the visitors were able to exert.
Tomas Francis – 7
The Welsh scrum was dominant in Cardiff, particularly in the first half, and Francis played a major role in that. Forced the penalty that Anscombe converted on the stroke of half-time to give the hosts a 16-point lead. Got through a lot of work in defence.
Adam Beard – 8
Has got the scars to show for what has been a bruising first Six Nations campaign. Was a long, gangly thorn in Ireland’s side whenever they tried to get their lineout drive working and stole one against the throw to set up the move that ended in Anscombe’s second penalty. He was also generally strong in defence.
Alun Wyn Jones – 9
Won his 134th cap but appeared to have the stamina of a man 10 years his junior. Asserted himself from the first minute when he climbed highest to take the lineout that led to Wales’ try. Was a constant presence in the game, making seven carries with ball in hand and an incredible – but not team high – 19 tackles to lead his side to the Grand Slam.
Josh Navidi – 8
Did not have the impact he can with ball in hand, bar one barnstorming first-half run off a lineout move but excelled in the dark arts. Made a team-high 21 tackles and was a huge part of the defensive effort that came within seconds of keeping the visitors scoreless. Gave away a couple of penalties but refused to let the Irish attack settle.
Justin Tipuric – 8
An effective option at the lineout and combined well with Beard to disrupt the visiting set piece. Had little opportunity to show his quality in attack but was strong over the ball and a constant presence at the breakdown. Was also faultless in defence, making all 12 of his attempted tackles.
Ross Moriarty – 7
Given a talking to by Gardner at the breakdown during the first half, but played on the right side of the line during his 71 minutes on the pitch. Marshalled the Welsh scrum expertly from number eight, keeping the ball at his feet when he needed to. Was a willing carrier with ball in hand, although he was caught in possession on a couple of occasions.
Elliott Dee – 7
Came on in the final quarter and did little wrong, making tackles in defence and offering a carrying option in attack. Connected with his only lineout throw.
Nicky Smith – 7
Came on with less than half an hour to play in Cardiff as the Welsh scrum began to come under pressure from Ireland. Made 10 in just 27 minutes on the pitch.
Dillon Lewis – 6
Summonsed from the bench alongside Smith and had a similar impact, making nine tackles during his time on the field. His right foot inadvertently diverted the ball away from Cian Healy on the Wales line.
Jake Ball – 6
Played the final nine minutes and did so with his usual commitment and drive.
Aaron Wainwright – 6
Replaced Moriarty for the final nine minutes and according to the official stats made 12 tackles in that time. A ridiculous effort.
Aled Davies – 6
Came on for Gareth Davies with around 23 minutes to go. Put in one excellent clearance kick, shanked one up and under but overall played well.
Dan Biggar – 8
Came on much earlier than he would have expected but was involved in the action almost immediately. Strong in defence, he provided a calm influence on the backline and dovetailed well with Anscombe, sharing duties at first receiver. Is almost certainly the best kick-chasing fly-half to ever play the game.
Owen Watkin – 6
Three tackles and 10 metres with ball in hand in less than 10 minutes on the pitch.
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