Winger’s two tries help Ireland to a 29-7 bonus-point victory over Wales
Andrew Conway scores brace in Six Nations opener
All the talk pre-match may have been about Mack Hansen making his Test debut but it was Ireland’s other winger, Andrew Conway, who made his presence felt on the scoreboard by crossing for two tries against Wales.
True, Hansen had a lively first cap, popping up all over the pitch and winning the Player of the Match award, yet it was Conway’s two tries early in the second half at the Aviva Stadium that put this result beyond doubt.
Andy Farrell couldn’t have asked for much more from his Ireland side than a 29-7 bonus-point victory to kick off their 2022 Six Nations campaign, the team living up to their billing as one of the title favourites with a commanding performance.
Ireland had dominated the opening 40, getting off to a blistering start when Bundee Aki scored in the corner after just two minutes and 17 seconds following an initial break from Hansen.
Johnny Sexton added a penalty to make it 10-0 while the other highlight of the first half for Irish fans was an outrageous Tadhg Furlong offload, but the hosts couldn’t convert their possession and territory into points.
That changed in the second half when Conway scored two tries in eight minutes. The first came soon after the break as Ireland pressurised Wales at a couple of lineouts inside the 22.
Operating under penalty advantage, Sexton sent a pass out to Conway, who was able to stretch for the line despite the attentions of three Welsh defenders. He was tackled by Josh Adams but was able to reach for the line before Liam Williams and Johnny McNicholl also arrived to help force him into touch, the officials ruling he had legally moved the ball forward by doing so in one motion. It was quite a finish.
His second was a simpler affair. Josh van der Flier provided great field position by bursting into the Welsh 22 and a few phases later Jamison Gibson Park found Conway on the wing for a simple run-in.
Garry Ringrose delivered the bonus-point try on 60 minutes, Aki releasing his centre partner into space and the Leinsterman producing a brilliant arcing run to score.
It was a ruthless performance by Ireland, who combined brute physicality up front – their back row of van der Flier, Caelan Doris and Jack Conan were superb at closing down Welsh ball-carriers, while Tadhg Beirne was another standout (in truth, the whole pack were phenomenal) – with softer skills to spread the ball wide.
They were five minutes away from holding Wales scoreless for the first time since 1970, but Taine Basham snaffled a pass in the 22 and scored under the posts so the visitors could avoid that ignominy.
There were few other Welsh scoring opportunities, with their stilted attack in stark contrast to Ireland’s, while they were put under tremendous pressure in defence – as this stat illustrates.
There is a real fluidity to this Irish attack, their movement off the ball and myriad running options, and it makes next week’s fixture against France in Paris all the more enticing.
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