Wales comeback to get dramatic draw in Dublin against Ireland
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | February 7, 2016
Ireland 16-16 Wales
- Dragons lose Biggar to injury
- Irish establish 13-0 lead with Murray try and Sexton kicks
- Late Welsh surge sees Faletau go over
- Priestland pens and conversion brings it level
- Further kicks from fly halves ensure a draw
Celtic clash ends with honours even
A rare Six Nations draw between title contenders Ireland and Wales saw Conor Murray and Toby Faletau’s first-half tries cancel one another out, with penalty points after the break ensuring a 16-16 result.
For the first time in 40 years, these opponents drew, handing the advantage to fellow Home Nation England in the title race (now 5/4 with Coral), following an uninspiring victory in Scotland on Saturday.
Early pressure from Joe Schmidt’s side with big hits from both sides a feature produced a couple of penalties for Johnny Sexton to kick over. While one fly half on show performed, the other, Dan Biggar, sustained an ankle problem and limped off midway through the first-half.
Dragons damaged by loss of Biggar
Welsh replacement Rhys Priestland’s shaky start when introduced almost cost the visitors a try, but nothing clear cut could be found in subsequent phases via TV review. A clearing kick had been charged down and a pile of bodies soon followed with nothing conclusive.
Ireland’s scrum half Murray made no mistake after Robbie Henshaw threw himself into a ruck and Jack McGrath tried to burrow over, with Sexton converting the opening try to give the home team a 13-0 advantage.
Just when this game looked like it was getting away from the Dragons, momentum turned in their favour when Keith Earls tip-tackled Liam Williams, who was a late change at full back because of Gareth Anscombe picking up a hamstring problem in training on the eve of this Six Nations opener.
Swing of pendulum brings Welsh back
Priestland’s penalty presaged a succession of 5m scrums, with Wales only being denied by the presence of mind from home side full back Simon Zebo to stop Williams getting on the end of an angled kick beyond the Irish tryline.
With Schmidt seeing his side collapse a scrum, Faletau nipped out from behind the driving pack to cross. Priestland converted this late first-half try, reducing the Dragons’ arrears to 13-10 at the interval.
Warren Gatland’s charges continued where they left off, and that allowed Irish ill-discipline to gift Wales and Priestland the chance to restore parity with another penalty.
Second-half all blood and thunder
An electric Zebo burst also unlocked the visiting defence, but hard-working scrum half Gareth Davies denied the hosts. Henshaw and Murray’s slick passing was also a feature as Ireland sought to take their game to their Celtic rivals again.
Sexton’s counter-attack forced Tom James, back in Welsh ranks for the first time in six years, into a massive tackle on Andrew Trimble to prevent a certain try.
Attritional as the second-half was, yet another Priestland penalty finally came Wales’ way and they finally came from behind to lead 16-13 with just eight minutes left, but Sexton kicked an even longer effort to draw Ireland level.
Punters could’ve got a massive 150/1 on a share of the spoils for both the Dragons and Irish before a ball was kicked in their Six Nations opener.
Odds for Wales to scoop the title are now 15/8 (cut steadily from 3/1, then 11/4 and 12/5), while a third Ireland triumph on the spin has been pushed out to 9/2 (from 7/2 and before that 3s).