Best and worst of Jonny Sexton and other takeaways as Ireland beat Wales 37-27

Alex Broun 22:01 24/02/2018
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A thrilling Six Nations encounter in Dublin with Ireland seemingly in control but Wales taking every opportunity to somehow stay in touch.

In the end eight tries were scored with the decisive five-pointer an intercept for 21-year-old Irish flyer Jacob Stockdale after the siren – his second of the game.

Here are our three take-aways from the game:

The best and worst of Johnny Sexton

The first seven minutes in Dublin was a microcosm of what was to follow from the Ireland No10.

First up a missed penalty from straight in front to preserve Wales 3-0 lead but then less than a minute later a superb bullet pass to put  Stockdale over in the corner, for his first, and Ireland up 5-3.

Bu then Sexton missed the conversion, admittedly from the corner, and another very adjacent penalty on 14 minutes.

Then on 17 minutes a break from inside his own 22 followed by a neat inside ball to Rob Kearney which gave Ireland some much needed momentum.

He continued to put in an up-and-down performance with the back issue that caused him to sit out Friday’s captain’s run clearly still troubling him.

Sexton nailed two out of three of his remaining kicks but was finally withdrawn on 77 minutes leaving Conor Murray to take the crucial penalty with five minutes, which he squeezed in off the left post to put Ireland up by ten points.

If Ireland are to go on to win the Six Nations then they need Sexton fit and firing.

Jonathan Sexton kicks

A game of two very different styles

Wales didn’t see much of the ball in the first half but when they did on 20 minutes their speed through the phases was breath taking.

A few quick rucks and Gareth Davies was over under the post.

It was a red flag for the home team and showed what Wales had to offer if they got some momentum.

The Dragons’ final try showed their very best – quick ball movement from a ruck centre of the field – a neat offload from Scott Williams taken on by Josh Navidi who found winger Steff Evans to run in for the five-pointer.

Wales are all about speed and running into gaps, while Ireland focus on winning the collisions – gaining physical dominance.

The perfect example of this was the lead up to Bundee Aki’s try right on half time when Ireland virtually battered their way over the line.

It’s a very similar game plan to England and it will be fascinating to see when the two teams clash at Twickenham on the final weekend who is the stronger.

Wales, like the All Blacks, may prefer to go around – Ireland and England definitely prefer to go through.

The Ireland pack can also deliver when they need to – such as in the 74th minute with Wales desperately hanging on just seven points down, the Irish eight produced a big shove against the head.

But the difference between the two teams was perfectly shown in the final moments in Dublin.

Wales had the ball with time running out.

Whereas Ireland, in a similar situation against France, held the ball through 40 phases until Sexton could land the decisive drop goal – Wales only held it for seven before a speculative long pass was plucked off by Stockdale to run away for the winning try.

Devin Toner

Inside balls and outside runners

As former Ireland winger Dennis Hickie so astutely pointed out Ireland love an inside runner.

In the run-up to Dan Leavy’s 45th minute try Hickie noted “the inter-play between Keith Earls and Rob Kearney, and getting it back inside to Conor Murray.

“The close runners are so good, Wales couldn’t get near them.”

Both teams have impressive outside runners as well with Evans for Wales and Stockdale for Ireland, two of the most dangerous young finishers in the game.

George North is also getting back to his best as well.

Keith Earls

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