Dejected Wales players after the game. Photo by Reuters
Ireland inflicted an eighth successive defeat on last
season's Six Nations champions and grand slam winners Wales
whose fall from grace continued with a 30-22 loss in the
opening game of the tournament.
Wales were stunned by a 20-point salvo from Ireland in the
opening 28 minutes that brought converted tries for wing
Simon Zebo and prop Cian Healy.
Returning former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll went over
from a metre out, his 46th international try in 121 matches,
early in the second half and although Wales countered with
scores from Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig
Mitchell, their stirring fightback fell short.
No side has won back to back grand slams since France in the
old Five Nations in 1997 and 1998.
Ireland had lost their last three to Wales, including the
2011 World Cup quarter-final, and set out energised and with
a steely determination to atone.
The men in green struck with an opening try after 10 minutes,
punching a hole in the Welsh backline first from a swift
attack that was only halted when right wing Craig Gilroy ran
out of space.
The Irish won a lineout after a knock-on and from quick
handling, O'Driscoll's run took the attention of three
defenders before the centre, who has hardly played since the
World Cup because of injury, fed Zebo to scamper over.
Desperate Welsh defence on their own line prevented another
try - Ireland settling for a penalty from Jonny Sexton - but
they soon threatened again.
With stony-faced coach Warren Gatland, now seconded to
British and Irish Lions duty, looking on from the stands, the
howls of derision from a stunned Millennium stadium crowd
grew louder still when Dan Biggar's clearance was charged
down and caught by hooker Rory Best.
Ireland had numbers in support although it took some fine
footballing skills from Zebo to flick up a pass behind him
with his left heel before gathering to maintain an attack
fnished off by Healy.
Wales, low on confidence and dazed by Ireland's aggressive
running, finally got on the board with Leigh Halfpenny's
penalty and despite getting up a head of steam late in the
half, their first persistent spell of pressure ended when
they were penalised close to the Irish try line.
Another sloppy start led to a turnover and O'Driscoll's score
from close range soon after the restart.
Wing Alex Cuthbert stemmed the tide by bursting through to
touch down and after Best was sin-binned, Halfpenny's try in
the corner kickstarted a spell of relentless pressure.
Ireland, reduced to 14 again with scrumhalf Conor Murray
shown yellow, buckled and bent in the last 20 minutes in the
face of a Welsh onslaught.
Replacement Craig Mitchell barrelled over for another try but
Ireland were by then home and dry.
O'Driscoll, who is seeking selection for a fourth Lions tour
this year, was named man-of-the-match.
"We started really well, we came out of the blocks in the
first half and played really well," he told BBC television.
"In fairness they were not going to be flat for the whole
game and they really put it to us in the second half. They
built momentum and if you can build IT it's hard to stop it."