Ireland cruise in Cardiff

Date published: August 8 2015

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Ireland looked sharp and regularly sliced open the Welsh defence as they ran in five tries to win 35-21 in Cardiff on Saturday.

The first warm-up contest for the European sides was expected to be disjointed but Ireland were rarely at fault. 

This meeting was never about the result but even so, Ireland racing out to a 25-0 lead away in Cardiff could not be sniffed at.

Joe Schmidt will have been encouraged by his team's patient approach to keeping the ball in hand and the performances of an energetic Keith Earls after his two-year absence. Jamie Heaslip, the Irish captain, was outstanding.

The only sour notes for the Six Nations champions were the withdrawal of Andrew Trimble after 35 minutes and then seeing Tommy O'Donnell stretchered off after a long pause in play.

The Munster flanker enjoyed a yet another strong outing and any serious injury at this stage, as it would be for any player, will be a real shame.

Wales were another story, turning out in a new kit but with four new caps in their starting XV including three players 21 or under. 

What will Warren Gatland have learned? His side looked very much like a patchwork outfit and while the scoreline is of minimal importance, the number of mistakes in terms of Wales' handling and execution were disappointing.

There were flashes of promise rather than concrete arguments.

Ireland's early experience told as they kept their composure by sucking in Welsh defenders to the ruck area after Dan Baker's poor pass had the home side scrambling backwards. 

The visitors created space out wide for captain Heaslip to simply jog over for the first try, his easiest yards in an industrious outing for the Irish captain who looked at his best.

He was followed in by an equally simple score for Darren Cave when the Ulster back went over off the first phase of a scrum right by the posts – Wales' defence leaving plenty to be desired.

Paddy Jackson, after a surprising miss early on but a successful penalty, made no mistake with his second conversion to make it 15-0 to Ireland after 22 minutes. Dangerous signs for Wales, whose ball retention was sorely lacking compared to their opponents.

The return of Earls and Trimble always meant Ireland had added experience with the two combining for Ireland's third try – a thumping tackle from Trimble loosening the ball for Earls to swoop up and race away.

It might have quickly been four had Scott Williams not stopped Trimble in the corner after a break from Felix Jones, with the full-back and winger then nearly combining again only for Eli Walker to time his burst out of the defensive line well enough to disrupt the final pass. Jackson instead added a second penalty, making it 25-0. 

Wales at last hit back through a smart lineout move taken by Dan Baker at the front with Justin Tipuric looping around to send Richard Hibbard over in the corner. 

It looked to be a shot in the arm for the young side as Hallam Amos grew in confidence running from full-back before threading a grubber down the touchline for Walker to chase. However he couldn't ground the ball despite an impressive acrobatic dive, with Wales down by 18 points at the break.

More bad luck followed when Ross Moriarity was sin-binned after the interval for a swinging arm on Simon Zebo, who appeared to be slipping as the contact was made and was left dazed while referee Glen Jackson made his decision.

The wing recovered to dot down in the corner with a low dive after sustained Irish pressure close to the Wales line, extending their lead to 30-7.

Zebo was on hand for Ireland's next five-pointer, a beautiful miss-pass cutting out the Welsh defence to put Jones over in the corner again as Ireland exploited their man advantage. Everything about the move, from Heaslip's line-breaking carry to the controlled passing, was top class.

Chris Henry's yellow card only shortly after his arrival off the bench at least gave Wales extra space to attack and they eventually made it count with a some find handling open up the defence. Tipuric's pass set it off and the flanker was on hand to round off the move for a second Welsh try, making it 35-14 with the home side's best moment of the match.

There was still time for Alex Cuthbert to grab the latest of conslation tries in the corner but it was far too late to affect the result, with Schmidt no question the happier of the two coaches as the two sides' World Cup preparations continue before they meet again in Dublin in three weeks time.

The scorers:

For Wales:

Tries: Hibbard, Tipuric, Cuthbert

Cons: Hook, Anscombe 2

Yellow Card: Moriarty

For Ireland:

Tries: Heaslip, Cave, Earls, Zebo, Jones

Cons: Jackson 2

Pens: Jackson 2

Yellow Card: Henry

Wales: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Scott Williams (c), 11 Eli Walker, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Rob Evans, 17 Kristian Dacey, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James King, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Matthew Morgan.

Ireland: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Simon Zebo

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

By Ben Coles

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