Wales 22-9 Ireland: George North stars in relieving win for the Welsh
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 11/03/17 4:02pm
George North answered his critics with two tries as Wales claimed a relieving 22-9 win over Ireland in the Six Nations.
Ireland opened the scoring with an early Johnny Sexton penalty, but Wales hit back with a try at the end of the first quarter as North cut back inside the cover defence for his first of the night.
Leigh Halfpenny missed the conversion which allowed Ireland to retake the lead with a second penalty, but he slotted another shot at goal to hand Wales an 8-6 lead going into the break.
North then scored his second try five minutes into the second half and Halfpenny converted for a nine-point lead.
Sexton reduced the deficit to six with Ireland's third penalty on the hour, but Wales settled matters when Taulupe Faletau charged down a Sexton clearance and Jamie Roberts snatched the ball before crashing over for a converted try.
Man of the match
In the 70th minute, with the visitors 15-9 behind, Ireland had an attacking lineout from which they set up a driving maul. The pack moved the ball to within a metre of the tryline before finally being halted by the Welsh defence.
Robbie Henshaw ran in to lend a hand to his forwards but the referee deemed the centre to have joined the maul ahead of the ball-carrier and awarded Wales a penalty. It looked as though Ireland were shifting the point of attack in the maul at the time and that Rory Best was in a good position to score, but it was all in vain as Wales got the penalty, cleared their lines, and held out for the win.
George North returned to his destructive best in Cardiff, running dangerously with the ball throughout the encounter. Rob Howley's side can't win the Six Nations, but the Saints winger has added his name to British and Irish Lions conversations.
Conor Murray appeared to have injured his bicep late in the first half and left the field soon after the break. Sexton was prepared to try things with the ball, and pressed heavily in defence, but ultimately Wales were able to withstand everything thrown at them by the visiting half-backs which stunted Ireland's chances at the Principality Stadium.
What it means
Any win will do for England at Twickenham on Saturday. In fact, England can afford to lose both of their remaining games and still claim the title if they pick up enough losing bonus points and try-bonus points.
Wales are out of contention while Ireland could still win the championship if England lose the Calcutta Cup clash without any bonus points and Ireland win heavily in Dublin in the final round.