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Wales 10-34 Ireland: Andy Farrell's visitors make ideal Six Nations start in Cardiff to sour Warren Gatland's return

Caelan Doris, James Ryan, James Lowe and Josh van der Flier score tries as Ireland post a first Six Nations victory in Cardiff for a decade; Ireland scored a record 27 first half points in the Welsh capital; Warren Gatland's first game in charge of Wales in his second stint falls flat

4 February 2023; Caelan Doris of Ireland scores his side's first try despite the tackle of Liam Williams of Wales during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Image: Caelan Doris scored one of four Irish tries as they picked up a Six Nations win in Cardiff for the first time in a decade

Ireland made an ideal start to their 2023 Six Nations campaign, as they secured a first championship victory over Wales in Cardiff since 2013, notching a bonus-point 34-10 win to spoil Warren Gatland's return. 

Ireland, despite being without key duo Robbie Henshaw (wrist) and Tadhg Furlong (calf) due to injury, and losing scrum-half Jamison Gibson Park and replacement loosehead Cian Healy on the day of the Test due to hamstring injuries, flew out of the traps under a closed roof at the Principality Stadium and never looked back from there.

Wales 10-34 Ireland - Score summary

Ireland - Tries: Doris (2), Ryan (9), Lowe (21), Van der Flier (73). Cons: Sexton (3, 10, 22), Byrne (74). Pens: Sexton (19, 28).

Wales - Tries: Williams (46). Cons: Biggar (46). Pens: Biggar (14). Yellow cards: Williams (65).

Outstanding No 8 Caelan Doris, lock James Ryan - firmly back to his form of 2018 - and wing James Lowe each scored first-half tries, before flanker Josh van der Flier added the bonus-point clinching fourth try with seven minutes to play. Skipper Johnny Sexton landed all five of his kicks at goal, while Ross Byrne added one conversion.

Wales registered points through a Dan Biggar penalty and converted Liam Williams try, but they also lost Williams to a sin-binning and were firmly second best, leaving Gatland and co with much work to do.

Image: Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton celebrates following their bonus-point Six Nations win at the Principality
Image: Warren Gatland, Wales head coach between 2007-2019 in his first spell, would have been disappointed with their championship opener

Team News

For Wales, inexperienced duo Joe Hawkins and Rio Dyer were named in the Wales backline as Warren Gatland's second stint in charge began. Ospreys centre Hawkins (one cap) partnered George North in midfield, while Dragons wing Dyer (three caps) joined Josh Adams in the back-three. Full-back Leigh Halfpenny then dropped out on Thursday due to a back spasm, and was replaced by Liam Williams.

Though skipper Johnny Sexton was fit to start, Ireland suffered a blow when key man and tighthead Tadhg Furlong was ruled out after failing to recover from a calf injury. Ireland then lost scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and replacement loosehead Cian Healy from the squad on the day of the match due to hamstring injuries. Centre Stuart McCloskey started ahead of Bundee Aki with Robbie Henshaw out.

One second from the two-minute mark, Ireland made the perfect start to the contest when impactful back-row Doris, with all his physicality and work-rate, couldn't fail to score off quick Conor Murray service near the try-line, after the Irish forwards had made good ground at pace within the 22 via tight carries.

The chance had come about from a sliced Josh Adams clearance after Ireland wing Lowe had cleverly kicked ahead in the first attack of the Test, while Wales' first attack in response was snuffed out and into touch by powerful centre Stuart McCloskey and a strong visiting defence.

Caelan Doris (centre) touches down for Ireland against Wales
Image: Doris touched down for the first try just 119 seconds after kick off - the third fastest try in Six Nations history

Did you know?

Caelan Doris' opening try in Cardiff for Ireland, timed at 1:59, was their third fastest in Six Nations history. Curiously, the two fastest were also scored vs Wales: Shane Byrne (2004), Rory Best (2007) - both inside the first minute.

Instead, it was Ireland who would score again next amidst a quietened home support, as second row Ryan forced his way over with Tadhg Beirne on his shoulder in the ninth minute after Sexton and co had chosen to attack from five metres rather than kick a close-range penalty, as more positive phase-play and hard carrying knocked Wales back repeatedly.

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Image: James Ryan got over for Ireland's second try within the opening 10 minutes with Tadhg Beirne on his shoulder

A brief moment of controversy soon followed as Wales' first big chance of the Test arrived: debutant wing Rio Dyer kicking and racing ahead into open grass after an Ireland attack near halfway had gone to ground.

The speed and work of Hugo Keenan to clear up stopped a certain try, and though Ireland's players were adamant the original attack leading to the opening had broken down because of a Wales knock-on in the tackle, no reprieve was forthcoming by ref Karl Dickson or TMO Tom Foley.

Wales had the chance to attack off a five-metre scrum as Keenan had carried back over the try-line, and the hosts chose to take the penalty kick on offer when Ireland infringed offside instead of another attack in the 22, as Biggar kicked through for a 14-3 deficit.

Image: Dan Biggar kicked Wales' only points of the first half, as they struggled to live with Ireland

Ireland clicked back into gear straightaway, though, and when tighthead Finlay Bealham forced a scrum penalty in the Wales 22, Sexton added three more points to the lead off the tee.

That 14-point advantage was soon a 21-point one, as Wales' next attack just outside the Ireland 22 was picked off and intercepted by left wing Lowe, who scampered away 80 metres or so to Wales' in-goal untouched.

4 February 2023; James Lowe of Ireland scores his side's third try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Image: James Lowe intercepted a Wales attack to sprint in for their third first-half try

Sexton added the most difficult of his three conversions to that point, before magnificent defence from centre Garry Ringrose to tackle Biggar near the try-line - after a stumble no less - and then a breakdown jackal from Lowe saw Ireland come away with the ball in a sequence as vital as a try.

Sexton added another penalty on 28 minutes when further one-way traffic and physical dominance continued to see Wales infringe at the breakdown - No 8 Taulupe Faletau the guilty party. With six minutes of the opening half to play, however, Ireland passed up a glorious chance for a fourth try when Doris knocked on a yard from the try-line after Dan Sheehan had been stopped just short.

Wales forced the consequent scrum into a penalty, and soon earned another decision from the referee - this time at the breakdown through Williams - allowing them to have the final big chance of the half.

Though dynamic back-row Jac Morgan went close attacking off a lineout in the 22, outstanding defensive work from loosehead Andrew Porter saw the ball held up and a score averted, leaving Ireland content to head in with their highest tally of first-half points ever registered in the Six Nations in Cardiff.

Wales began the second period on the front foot as they badly needed to, and just six minutes in they were over for their only try when Williams crossed by the posts after quick hands by impressive 20-year-old centre Joe Hawkins.

Liam Williams
Image: Liam Williams scored Wales' only try of the Test, six minutes into the second half

A late Porter tackle as the try was being scored meant Wales began the restart with a penalty on halfway, too, but a subsequent crooked lineout delivery from skipper Ken Owens sapped all the excitement and momentum built up.

A cheap penalty conceded by Lowe for obstructing Adams as the ball was in the air saw Wales planted in the Ireland 22 again soon after, only for Doris to force a choke tackle maul and win possession back in the shadow of the away side's own posts.

Wales, Ireland
Image: Wales were much improved in the second half, but struggled to find a way past a superb Ireland defence

Much improved from their first-half display, Wales continued to probe as a stirring Williams break almost saw them in down the left, but great defence from Keenan and co shut the door as Justin Tipuric overthrew a pass.

A needless penalty conceded from Ireland replacement lock Iain Henderson, moments after he entered the play, saw Wales kick into the Ireland 22 to attack again, but once more they got no change as North and Dyer knocked on between them.

An ill-advised Sexton cross-field kick-pass towards Peter O'Mahony from deep soon saw Dyer intercept and sprint down the left, but superb one-on-one Mack Hansen defence halted the chance, before Ireland's defence forced another knock-on through a combination of Porter and Van der Flier.

A Doris breakdown win gave Ireland some much-needed territory in the second half, before sustained phase-play brought another penalty when Wales' Biggar knocked on intentionally. Sexton kicked to the corner instead of for points, but the move came to nothing when Rhys Carre turned over the ball near his own try-line.

A brilliant Ryan five-metre lineout steal halted Wales' next chance, before the door was shifted ajar for Ireland to claim a fourth try when Williams was sin-binned for a high tackle on Sexton after a TMO review. Once Ireland built up a head of steam in the 22 via 15 phases, Van der Flier was on hand to dive over under the posts and crown off a hugely positive day for those in green.

Josh van der Flier
Image: Josh van der Flier scored Ireland's fourth try with seven minutes left to claim the bonus-point
Josh van der Flier (left) celebrates with Caelan Doris after scoring Ireland's fourth try against Wales

What's next?

Wales next travel to face Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh next Saturday, February 11 (4.45pm kick-off GMT), in Round 2 of the Six Nations.

Wales Six Nations 2023 fixtures

Saturday, February 4 Wales 10-34 Ireland 2.15pm
Saturday, February 11 Scotland vs Wales 4.45pm
Saturday, February 25 Wales vs England 4.45pm
Saturday, March 11 Italy vs Wales 2.15pm
Saturday, March 18 France vs Wales 2.45pm

Ireland, also in action next Saturday for the second round of the championship, host defending champions France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (2.15pm kick-off GMT).

Ireland's Six Nations 2023 fixtures

Saturday, February 4 Wales 10-34 Ireland 2.15pm
Saturday, February 11 Ireland vs France 2.15pm
Saturday, February 25 Italy vs Ireland 2.15pm
Sunday, March 12 Scotland vs Ireland 3pm
Saturday, March 18 Ireland vs England 5pm

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