Ireland beat Wales 35-21 in World Cup warm-up game in Cardiff
Last Updated: 11/08/15 11:52am
Ireland sent out an early warning to their rivals ahead of the World Cup with a comfortable 35-21 victory over Wales in Cardiff, although it was marred by a serious looking injury to Irish flanker Tommy O'Donnell.
First-half tries by captain Jamie Heaslip, centre Darren Cave and his midfield colleague Keith Earls sent Ireland on their way, before substitute Simon Zebo's early second-half score sealed the deal after Wales lost debutant flanker Ross Moriarty to the sin-bin following a swinging high hit on Zebo.
Full-back Felix Jones added a fifth touchdown after 54 minutes, and fly-half Paddy Jackson chipped in with two penalties and two conversions, leaving Wales at sixes and sevens and only able to reflect on consolation tries for Richard Hibbard, Justin Tipuric and Alex Cuthbert, with James Hook adding one conversion and Gareth Anscombe two.
Hook and his half-back partner Mike Phillips were both substituted after just 49 minutes, which said everything about Wales' lack of tactical control during a game that saw a largely second-string side outplayed in most key areas.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland knows that the result means little, but a number of players could have removed themselves from the World Cup selection equation, with Gatland's final 31-man squad announcement just over three weeks away ahead of a tournament that sees his team in the same punishing pool as England and Australia.
Ireland, though, march on under the masterly coaching direction of Joe Schmidt, and with many pundits tipping them to reach at least the World Cup semi-finals in October, it is difficult to doubt that prediction at this stage.
Their only dark moment during an otherwise dominant afternoon was seeing Munster flanker O'Donnell carried off near the end after suffering what appeared to be a serious injury.
The Millennium Stadium roof was closed, replicating conditions ahead of the World Cup next month when both countries will play pool games in Cardiff, and Ireland struck an opening blow after just nine minutes when Heaslip touched down unopposed following a powerful run by scrum-half Eoin Reddan that set up an imposing attacking position.
And matters did not get any easier for Wales, and after Earls went close to scoring Ireland's second try, his midfield partner Cave then pounced from short-range, with Jackson's conversion following an earlier penalty that opened
up a fully-deserved 15-0 advantage.
Wales could not get into the game, and when fly-half Hook tried to free Walker in space, the Ospreys speed merchant was crunched by an immense Andrew Trimble tackle and Earls sprinted 30 metres to claim Ireland's third try before another Jackson conversion made it 22-0.
A Jackson penalty took Ireland 25 points clear, but Wales belatedly stirred at the end of a half that had seen them display some worrying defensive deficiencies when Hibbard touched down wide out following a slick Justin Tipuric
pass, before some acrobatic work by Walker almost saw him score following a clever Hallam Amos kick.
Wales, though, could have no complaints about the 25-7 interval scoreline, and they required a vast improvement during the second 40 minutes or face the prospect of suffering a comprehensive home defeat.
Seasoned international Taulupe Faletau replaced No 8 Dan Baker at half-time, but Wales still struggled for momentum as Moriarty was yellow-carded for a reckless lunge on Zebo that did not help his team's cause.
Jones then continued the game's one-sided nature with another touchdown, and although Ireland had substitute forward Chris Henry sin-binned for a technical offence, they were way too far in front for it to make any difference.
Wales did have the final say with a Tipuric solo try and Cuthbert's corner finish that gave the scoreline an unbalanced feel.