Ireland 19-10 Wales: Home side move to No 1 in the world in Joe Schmidt's final Dublin Test
Ireland moved to No 1 in World Rugby rankings for first time in history
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 07/09/19 11:45pm
For the first time in history, Ireland moved to No 1 in the world rugby rankings on Saturday after a 19-10 victory over Wales at the Aviva Stadium in their final pre-Rugby World Cup Test.
In head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best's final Dublin Test, tries from full-back Rob Kearney, tighthead Tadhg Furlong and second row James Ryan, plus two conversions from Johnny Sexton earned Ireland the win, with their dominant second-half display particularly impressive.
A try by Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes and penalty from Leigh Halfpenny had given Wales a first-half 10-7 lead, but they succumbed to their third defeat from four pre-World Cup Tests.
Ireland next play Scotland on Sunday, September 22 in their Rugby World Cup opener in Japan, while Wales face Georgia in their first game a day later on Monday, September 23.
Leigh Halfpenny should have kicked Wales into the lead as early as the third minute when Ireland lock Jean Kleyn was caught offside within his own half in midfield, but the full-back mis-hit the effort wide off the tee.
Wales had another chance for the lead almost immediately when Sexton kicked the 22 dropout straight out, handing the visitors a central scrum on the Ireland 22. A lovely reverse move off the set-piece saw Halfpenny kick ahead with George North seemingly odds on to reach the ball, but Kearney showed super pace to get across and ground the ball in his 22, stopping a try.
Wales continued to dominate possession and territory when CJ Stander was penalised for hands in the ruck as an assist tackler, placing Warren Gatland's team within the Ireland 22 again, but the move was ended when hooker Best won a vital breakdown penalty.
As it was, Ireland would be first to trouble the scoreboard when Kearney finished off a flowing move at great pace after Stander had generated go-forward by powering over the top of Rhys Patchell, before Conor Murray and Sexton sprung the ball wide for the Ireland full-back to attack and finish.
Ireland wing Jordan Larmour took Halfpenny out in the air in the first phase of play after the restart, and this time Halfpenny made no mistake off the tee, splitting the uprights on the angle for 7-3.
On the half-hour mark, Dan Biggar was denied an intercept try by some phenomenal recovery defence by Robbie Henshaw and Kearney, who chased the replacement and held the ball up.
From the resultant five-metre scrum, however, Wales played through several close-range carries before centre Parkes ran an outstanding line to crash over at unstoppable speed. Halfpenny's conversion gave Wales a 10-7 lead.
Into the second half, Ireland took overwhelming control of the fixture and nearly had a try in the opening moments when lock Ryan was held up.
Wales conceded penalties for offside and at a five-metre scrum thereafter though, before a try finally did arrive on 51 minutes with brute force from Furlong doing the job from close range.
Centre Henshaw's line off the preceding scrum had taken three Wales defenders out of play, before Furlong took a Murray short ball and fought to ground. When Sexton converted, Ireland led 14-10.
Just before the hour mark, Ireland were over again when Ryan did get over the try-line after some fantastic Ireland phase play at wonderful pace and momentum.
Into the closing stages, entirely played within the Wales half, second row Adam Beard was sin-binned for the away side for collapsing a maul and stopping a certain try, before Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne was held up.
The home side could not score again but will be happy with the improvements to their game in the second period, with this victory sure to engender some much-needed confidence.