Wales outplay Ireland to secure Grand Slam Six Nations Championship
WALES 25 IRELAND 7
Wales deservedly secured a Grand Slam Six Nations Championship in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon.
Ireland may have been disappointing in their execution and overall performance, but Wales dominated the key areas and took their opportunities when presented.
It was the perfect way for coach Warren Gatland to sign off on his Six Nations career with the Welsh - and hooker Ken Owens as well - but it was bitterly disappointing that their Ireland counterparts, Joe Schmidt and Rory Best, had to end their Six Nations careers in such fashion.
For the Irish duo and the squad there is still the World Cup to come in Japan this Autumn, but there is work to do if they are to perform to their world number two ranking.
It took Grand Slam-chasing Wales less than two minutes to cross for their first try. Gareth Anscombe's perfectly-weighted kick over the Ireland defence was taken by Hadleigh Parkes who had the simple task of finishing the move.
The try was converted to give Wales a 7-0 lead and the dream start in Cardiff.
Parkes followed up his early try by pulling off a try-saving tackle on the marauding Jacob Stockdale to cement that early advantage.
George North departed due to injury in a blow to the hosts however, with Dan Biggar joining the fray at fly-half, Anscombe moving to full-back and Liam Williams to the wing.
Anscombe landed a long-range penalty to stretch Wales' lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Ireland failed to master the conditions, with the driving rain causing the visitors more problems than the composed hosts.
Ireland's decision to leave the Principality Stadium roof open appeared to backfire significantly therefore, with Gatland's men never looking likely to relinquish control.
Anscombe's excellent afternoon continued with two more expertly-struck penalties to put the home side in total control at 16-0 at the break.
Anscombe's fourth penalty pushed Wales into an even more commanding position to kick-start the second half.
And when Sexton punted the restart out on the full, it appeared Wales' glory march was almost nailed on with half an hour to go.
CJ Stander was pinged for not rolling away in yet another poor penalty concession from Ireland, and once again Anscombe booted the points to twist the knife.
Wales' 22-0 lead on the hour proved fully justified reward for their complete dominance.
Man of the match Anscombe made it 25-0 and as the Welsh were already celebrating their Grand Slam achievement, Ireland replacement Jordan Larmour crossed for a try in the third minute of added time, Jack Carty converted - it was a mere consolation.