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CARDIFF, United Kingdom: Ireland survived a second-half comeback to kick-off their Six Nations campaign with a 30-22 victory yesterday and consign Wales to an eighth successive defeat.
Declan Kidney’s men raced into 30-3 lead thanks to tries from Simon Zebo, Cian Healy and Brian O’Driscoll.
The game appeared dead and buried but Wales fought back with touchdowns of their own from Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig Mitchell.
However, it was not enough as Ireland hung on, and Kidney’s men can now look forward to welcoming England to Dublin next week, while wounded Wales face a daunting trip to France.
“The first game is a must-win otherwise you are chasing your tail for the rest of the Championship. We started really well today,” said O’Driscoll.
Wales interim coach Rob Howley admitted his team paid a heavy price for their first half problems when they slipped 23-3 down.
“We showed great character and resilience in the second half to come back into it, but we probably left three or four tries out there as well,” he said.
“To score three tries and be on the losing side, you look back and that first 20 minutes was key.”
Wales made a bright start at the Millennium Stadium but Ireland quickly took control of the encounter.
They launched a sustained period of pressure and they raced into the lead thanks to a bit of magic from veteran centre O’Driscoll.
After Rob Kearney fixed the Welsh defence with a clever dummy run, the Leinster legend mesmerised them to send Zebo into the corner. Sexton slotted the conversion and Ireland continued to exert their dominance on the encounter, threatening the Welsh whitewash on several occasions.
Ireland settled for a Sexton penalty on 21 minutes, as Andrew Coombs came in from the side and was fortunate to escape a yellow card.
Within a matter of minutes the visitors extended their lead further when Dan Biggar, making his first appearance in the Six Nations, saw his clearance charged down by Rory Best, who re-gathered.afp