Ireland 16-16 Wales: Thrilling draw at the Aviva Stadium
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 08/02/16 10:36am
Wales and Ireland opened their Six Nations campaigns with a tense 16-16 draw at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
Ireland were 13-0 up after 27 minutes thanks to a Conor Murray try and two Johnny Sexton penalties, but Wales fought back through a try from Taulupe Faletau and the boot of replacement fly-half Rhys Priestland, who levelled the scores with his second penalty after 48 minutes.
Priestland and Sexton traded further goals, and the Welsh pivot attempted a drop goal to win the game with two minutes remaining, but the effort went wide as the two sides were forced to make do with a draw in the opening weekend of the 2016 Six Nations.
Ireland started the game with more intensity than their visitors, and Sexton helped them to a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes following a pair of penalties.
Dan Biggar had a penalty attempt of his own as the first quarter drew to a close, but he missed the effort and limped off the field soon thereafter to be replaced by Priestland.
Ireland were soon back on the front foot with an attacking lineout, and on the back of it Jamie Heaslip appeared to have scored for the home side, but the TMO could not award the try and Ireland were awarded a 5m scrum.
Quick ball off the first phase led to Murray taking the ball at the base of a ruck with the Welsh defence not set, and after throwing a dummy the scrum-half dived over the line for the opening try of the game.
With 27 minutes played and Ireland 13-0 up, the game appeared to be getting away from Wales, but the try ignited Warren Gatland's men as they closed out the half the stronger of the two sides.
First Priestland slotted a penalty to register Wales' first points of the game. The fly-half almost went one better when he put in a clever cross-field kick from which Liam Williams nearly scored a try, but Simon Zebo did just enough to disrupt the catch.
The referee was playing advantage at the time, but Wales turned down the chance for three points in favour of a scrum. Another penalty led to another scrum, and at the second time of asking Faletau darted over the line from the set-piece to make it 13-10 going into the break.
Wales started the second half the way they ended the first, piling the pressure on Ireland as Priestland brought them level with a 48th-minute penalty.
The two sides cancelled each other out for the next 25 minutes, with Sexton providing the most promising scoring opportunity when he ghosted through the Welsh midfield, but his pass to Andrew Trimble ended with the winger bundled into touch by Tom James.
When Jack McGrath failed to roll away from a ruck Priestland was then given a chance to give Wales the lead for the first time in the game, and the Bath fly-half made no mistake with his attempt.
However Wales' lead was immediately eradicated when Thomas Francis failed to retreat from a Lloyd Williams kick ahead, and Sexton nailed the kick from the edge of his range to level things up once more.
With Wales hot on attack with just over two minutes remaining Priestland dropped into the pocket, but watched from afar as his kick sailed left of the uprights.
Neither side appeared prepared to accept the scoreline as they continued to run at each other with no time left on the clock, before Murray was eventually tackled into touch to bring down the curtain on a thrilling draw.