Ireland storm past Wales
Ireland claim comfortable win at Croke Park
By Rachel Griffiths. Last Updated: 13/03/10 6:19pm
Earls: Scored two tries
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll celebrated his century of caps in style as his side powered to a clinical 27-12 RBS Six Nations victory over Wales at Croke Park.
Boosted by two tries from Keith Earls and one from man-of-the-match Tomas O'Leary, Ireland comfortably wrapped up the win to leave them one victory away from securing their fifth Triple Crown in seven seasons.
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton delivered an uneven display with the boot but managed three penalties and a late drop-goal, while opposite number Stephen Jones kicked four penalties but could not rescue an ill-disciplined Wales.
A yellow card for Lee Byrne went some way to sealing the visitors' fate, as the hosts took advantage of a 14-man Welsh side to post two tries.
Ireland were slow to warm up, missing an opportunity to take control early on as fly-half Sexton dragged a penalty attempt left of the posts.
A somewhat muted start saw the visitors draw first blood as Ireland failed to roll away, with Stephen Jones kicking the resulting penalty to make it 3-0.
Wales landed another chance on 13 minutes as the kicking game continued, with O'Driscoll penalised for going off his feet, but the angle was tricky and Jones sent it wide.
Sexton was on target with his second penalty attempt, making it 3-3, but Ireland were dealt a blow in the 23rd minute as injured centre Gordon D'Arcy left the field and the hosts were forced to reshuffle their line-up, with Rob Kearney coming off the bench.
Tommy Bowe opened up a chance for Ireland with a strong individual effort but was hauled back illegally, with Sexton kicking the penalty to make it 6-3.
The visiting side were weakened not long after as Byrne was sent to the sin-bin for holding on too long, and Ireland piled on the misery with the first try of the match as Earls, fed by O'Driscoll, evaded Jones to roll over the line.
Sexton missed the conversion, but Ireland compensated four minutes later as O'Leary went over to make it 16-3, though the extras were missed once again.
Wales threatened a comeback when Byrne returned to the pitch, landing another three points as Earls was penalised, but Ireland were 16-6 ahead and very much in charge at the break.
The second half saw the visitors come back fighting, though, and finally gain some momentum, getting within 10m of the line before using the scrum to attack.
Ireland withstood the onslaught, however, with Sexton clearing the danger, and were soon back in control with another penalty, awarded after Byrne threw the ball away, to make it 19-6.
Wales hit back with a Jones penalty kick on 55 minutes to add another three points, but Ireland asserted their dominance once again as Earls posted his second try, Sexton's missed conversion leaving the score at 24-6.
Not even five substituions late in the game could help the visitors find a way through, meaning they had to rely on Jones' boot for points. The fly-half kicked two more penalties to narrow the gap to 15 points.
However a neat drop goal from Sexton in the dying minutes closed out the scoring and wrapped up a miserable afternoon in Dublin for Warren Gatland and his side.